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Australian PM says Bing could replace Google if it leaves over news spat

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Microsoft's Bing search engine could replace Google's own if the latter pulls out of the country.

Plans from the government to make Google pay local news outlets for their content were not well received by the firm who has threatened to abandon the Australian market altogether if it’s forced to adhere.

Morrison has spoken about the new rules with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, which owns and runs Bing.

“I can tell you, Microsoft’s pretty confident, when I spoke to Satya,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra. “We just want the rules in the digital world to be the same that exist in the real world, in the physical world.

“These are big technology companies and what’s important to Australia, I think, is that we set the rules that are right for our people. Having a news environment in this country that is one that is sustainable and is supported commercially, then this is vital to how democracies function.”

Although Bing is Australia’s second most-popular search engine, it takes only 3.7 per cent of the market share compared to Google’s 95 per cent.

The specific details of Australia's plans are to force digital platforms like Google and Facebook to share their advertising funds with news organisations which are struggling with falling revenues, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Google’s strong response to potentially exit the Australian market altogether may be due to concerns that the Australian case will set a global precedent that would force it to pay for journalistic content in other countries, too.

A Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed the discussion with Morrison took place but declined to comment further, because the company was not directly involved with Australia's proposed laws.

“We recognise the importance of a vibrant media sector and public interest journalism in a democracy and we recognise the challenges the media sector has faced over many years through changing business models and consumer preferences,” the spokeswoman said.

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