Google threatens to shut down search engine in Australia over news code

Sydney, Australia - Google has threatened to pull its search engine from Australia on Friday if a controversial bill that would require tech firms to pay for news content becomes law.

Melanie Silva, managing director for Google Australia, appeared via video conference before the Senate inquiry.
Melanie Silva, managing director for Google Australia, appeared via video conference before the Senate inquiry.  © imago images / AAP

"If this version of the [media] Code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia," Melanie Silva, managing director for Google's Australian operations, told a Senate enquiry, as reported by AAP.

The news media bargaining code bill was introduced into Australia's parliament in December.

If passed, it will force tech companies to pay news outlets for their content or else they would face fines of up to 10 million Australian dollars ($7.7 million). The code would apply to Facebook NewsFeed and Google Search.

Google published a video and letter on Friday addressing Australian users in a campaign against the news code.

Silva likened paying news outlets for displaying links to their content to recommending coffee shops to a friend and then being billed by the coffee shops for mentioning them.

"When you put a price on linking to certain information, you break the way that search engines work and you no longer have a free and open web," Silva said.

The company wants to pay publishers through its Google News Showcase program instead. Nearly 200 publications have signed deals with the program, Google said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission developed the code.

Its chairman Rod Sims told the Senate inquiry that without the news code, the balance of power is too much in favor of tech companies and allows them to offer "take it or leave it deals."

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison hit back at the comments, telling reporters that "Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia."

"That's done in our parliament. It's done by our government. We don't respond to threats."

Cover photo: imago images / AAP

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