Australian Watchdog Shaking Down Google and Facebook for Its Money

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is downplaying Google’s concerns over the agency’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code, insisting it does not pose a threat to internet users in Australia.

However, it doesn’t seem like the ACCC is in any position to dismiss the platform’s assessment of how the proposed measure will affect its operations, and in effect, its users.

For starters, the draft code empowers large media organizations to secure ‘fair payment’ from Google’s and Facebook’s ad revenue over news content published on the platforms. It also requires the search operator to share user data with media companies, favor original source news content in search results, and notify media outfits in advance if there are any algorithm changes in the platform.

Google’s Warning

In an open letter denouncing the proposed regulation, Google explicitly said the code is poised to negatively affect the way Australians use Youtube and Google Search.

"A proposed law, the News Media Bargaining Code, would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia."

In a move that could only be described as corporate gaslighting, ACCC dismissed these warnings as ‘misinformation.’

“Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and Youtube, unless it chooses to do so,” insists Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC, in a statement released to 9News.”Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.”

What Does The Draft Say?

The search giant has since pushed back, telling ZDNet that the draft code does in fact require Google to supply media organizations with data that they don’t otherwise share with its publishers.

Embed from Getty Images

“[It] requires Google to tell news media businesses what user data we collect, what data we supply to them...this goes beyond the current level of data sharing between Google and news publishers.”

"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."

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As for the ACCC’s ‘clarification’ that it is not requiring Google to start charging Australians for its free services, well, Google only had this to say:

“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. 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."

August 21, 2020




Rosabell Toledo


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