Google has flagged removing its search engine from Australia over the Federal Government’s proposed digital media code.
The proposal would force tech giants to pay local media companies for providing their content in search and sharing their content on social media, which Google says would “dismantle a free and open service that’s been built to serve everyone”.
“The latest version of the code requires Google to pay to link to news sites, breaking a fundamental principle of how the web works, and setting an untenable precedent for our business, the internet, and the digital economy,” Mel Silva, the managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement.
Addressing the ultimatum last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison didn’t mince words: “We don’t respond to threats.”
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Google accounted for 90 per cent of search traffic originating from Australian desktop computer users in 2018, and a whopping 98 per cent from mobile users.
And while it’s important to note the proposed code needs to pass before any changes, real or imagined, are likely to take place, Dr Barnet says it may be time to start considering alternatives to Google.
While switching search engines is likely to be an inconvenience, Dr Barnet and Mr Lewis agree the most profound impacts will be the flow-on effects on Australian businesses.
“The digital advertising market for Google search in Australia is worth about $4.3 billion per year,” Dr Barnet says.
“And they’re willing to forego that in order to not have to pay a fair price for news content.”
An analysis of Australia’s reliance on Google and Facebook, undertaken by the Centre for Responsible Technology, notes: “Google now accounts for over 51 per cent of all online advertising.”