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Google spats with Australia over plans to make it pay for news content

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In an open letter, Google has warned that Australia’s plans to force it to pay news outlets for their content would hurt the user experience and provide “unfair” advantages to large news businesses over smaller providers.

In April, Australia announced the plans as a way to halt the decline of news firms amid declining revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

But Google has hit back today, saying it is “deeply concerned” about the proposals which will hurt content creators across its portfolio of brands, especially YouTube.

It said it “may be obliged” to give large news publishers confidential information about its systems that would help them boost their own views ahead of users with fewer resources.

Google added that the new law would allow big news businesses to demand large amounts of money above and beyond what they earn on the platform, leaving fewer funds to invest in smaller creators.

“Under this law, big news businesses can seek access to data about viewers’ use of our products,” it said, addressing the privacy implications of the new rules. “YouTube believes user data protection is paramount and we should not be required to hand this data over.”

The statement was advertised to users on Google’s main search page and marks an escalation of tensions between big tech companies and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC accused Google of publishing “misinformation” and said the laws would not require the US company to charge Australians for its services or share any personal data.

The proposed law would “allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services”, ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

“This will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook,” he added.

In July, the ACCC accused Google of misleading consumers to get permission for use of their personal data for targeted advertising and is seeking a multi-million dollar fine from the firm. 

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