Google has angrily fired back at federal authorities after the search giant was accused of sending “misinformation” to Australian users, the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter fight about paying for journalism.
Google has claimed a proposed new code is unworkable, and promised to wage a concerted campaign against the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s plans.
Facebook and Google would be forced to compensate media outlets, under draft guidelines recently released by the ACCC.
The digital giants have been criticised for hoovering up vast amounts of advertising dollars formerly relied on by news businesses, with the ACCC and federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg saying it was important to “create a level playing field”.
The overseas tech companies disagreed with the ruling. On Monday, Google rolled out the first parts of its public campaign, hoping to turn Australians against the ACCC plan.
In an open letter published online, Google claimed the news media bargaining code would force it to provide users with a “dramatically worse” search and YouTube products.
“[The code] could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia,” Google Australia managing director Mel Silva said.
The ACCC hit back, calling the claims “misinformation”. It said Google would not be forced to charge for its services or share any additional data.
“A healthy news media sector is essential to a well-functioning democracy. We will continue to consult on the draft code with interested parties, including Google,” the ACCC said Monday.
On Tuesday, Google responded again, claiming its statement had been taken out of context.
“We did not say that the proposed law would require us to charge Australians for Search and YouTube – we do not intend to charge users for our free services,” a Google spokesperson told The New Daily.
“What we did say is that Search and YouTube, both of which are free services, are at risk in Australia. That’s because the code as it is drafted is unworkable.”
Google said it was unhappy with parts of the code that would compel it “to give all news media businesses advance notice of algorithm changes and explain how they can minimise the effects”.
“Even assuming Google could comply with this provision, it would seriously damage our products and user experience. It would impact our ability to continue to show users the most relevant useful results on Google Search and YouTube,” Google said.
The company also said provisions in the code about sharing user data with media companies go “beyond the current level of data sharing between Google and news publishers”.
The YouTube you know and love is at risk in Australia. A proposed new law, The News Media Bargaining Code, could have a significant, negative impact on creators in Australia. Your voice matters.→ https://t.co/gR5Hf81DIH pic.twitter.com/oPnC6fi3If
— YouTube Creators (@ytcreators) August 17, 2020
Google and its other companies, including YouTube, have promised to keep running a campaign against the proposed code. In another open letter, Gautam Anand, head of YouTube’s Australia and Pacific operations, told users “in the coming days, you’ll hear more from us about how you can get involved”.
Google has also been showing Australians a pop-up box when they search, claiming “the way Aussies use Google is at risk” and “your search experience will be hurt by new regulation”.
Google Australia taking big swings against the Australian govt's proposed News Media Bargaining Code, now inecting its open letter into public search results. Link leads to its open letter: https://t.co/oJnhpjwEf7 pic.twitter.com/VbvOx0eIZw
— Luke Hopewell (@lukehopewell) August 17, 2020
In a tweet on one of its Twitter pages, YouTube told its global followers to send feedback to the ACCC to “support your favourite creators” on the video platform.
Mr Anand’s open letter said the ACCC code “could have a significant, negative impact on the creator ecosystem in Australia”, claiming it could affect the number of video views and income each creator can receive from YouTube clips.
You can help support your favorite creators – you don't have to be based in Australia to send your views on the draft code to the ACCC, just email email@example.com by 5 pm AEST on 28 August 2020.
We’ll share more ways to get involved in the coming days too.
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) August 17, 2020
“The imbalances created by this proposed law could potentially affect all types of Australian creators, far beyond those who focus on news: from vloggers, to educational creators, to music artists and beyond,” he wrote
“We are doing everything we can to push for changes and make sure YouTube in Australia remains a place where anyone can connect to an audience or build a business, not just a few large media companies.”
The New Daily has also contacted Facebook for its response to the ACCC code.