Google is challenging a proposed rule by Australian regulators that could force the global technology company to pay the country’s news outlets to distribute their content.
In an open letter published online Monday (Aug. 17), Mel Silva, Google Australia’s managing director, wrote the News Media Bargaining Code would require the Menlo Park, California tech giant to provide “dramatically worse” Google Search and YouTube service that could lead to personal data being provided to news organizations and put free services at risk.
Last month, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the country’s competition regulator, proposed the landmark rule intended to fix what it calls “acute bargaining power imbalances” between newsgroups, Google and Facebook.
“There is a fundamental bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and the major digital platforms, partly because news businesses have no option but to deal with the platforms, and have had little ability to negotiate over payment for their content or other issues,” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims in a statement at the time.
But Silva disagrees.
“You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you,” she wrote. “We could no longer guarantee that under this law.”
If adopted, Silva said it would require Google to give an unfair advantage to news gatherers.
“News media businesses alone would be given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else, even when someone else provides a better result,” she wrote. “We’ve always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking.”
Under this law, Silva wrote, Google must tell news media businesses how they can gain access to data about the use of products. There’s no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses, she added.
Under the proposed new rule, if publishers and digital platforms can’t agree to a deal after 90 days of negotiations a final offer arbitration process will be initiated with selection of the “most reasonable” offer in 45 business days.
The initiative must be approved by Parliament and if enacted, would allow Australian news publishers outlets to be paid within months.
“We wanted a model that would address this bargaining power imbalance and result in fair payment for content, which avoided unproductive and drawn-out negotiations, and wouldn’t reduce the availability of Australian news on Google and Facebook,” said Sims.
The proposed rule changes follow charges by the ACCC that Google failed to get consent or inform consumers before combining personal information in Google accounts with browsing activities on non-Google websites.