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Google accuses Microsoft of ‘naked corporate opportunism’ over news law

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Google has attacked Microsoft for “lobbying for regulations that benefit their own interests” following its spat with the Australian government over paying local news outlets for their content.

Last month, the Australian parliament passed its long-debated law which forces tech firms to pay for news content in an attempt to stymie huge financial losses at news firms in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

But while Google threatened to pull out of the country altogether, and Facebook blocked its Australian users from sharing news on its social network, Microsoft entered discussions with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, confident that Bing could become the country’s primary search engine of choice if necessary.

In a blog post titled “Our ongoing commitment to supporting journalism”, Google has defended its approach saying it has always been committed to “providing high-quality and relevant information”, and to supporting the news publishers who help create it. It said it had already shared billions of dollars in ad revenue with news organisations but suggested that the Australian proposals threatened access to the open web that would hurt consumers, small businesses, and publishers.

Australia did compromise on its new rules after discussions with major tech firms, by agreeing to not apply the code to firms that can demonstrate they have signed enough deals with media outlets to pay them for content. Google subsequently signed several large deals with major media firms including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

But Google accused Microsoft of displaying “naked corporate opportunism” during the spat with its Bing offer and said it was reverting to a “familiar playbook of attacking rivals and lobbying for regulations that benefit their own interests”.

“They are now making self-serving claims and are even willing to break the way the open web works in an effort to undercut a rival,” the blog reads. “And their claims about our business and how we work with news publishers are just plain wrong.”

The post from Google is a rare, consumer-centric direct attack on one of its largest rivals. But its strong hostility towards the Australian law was seen as an attempt to prevent a global precedent that could see other countries around the world making it pay a greater share of its revenue to news publishers.

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