Google’s international scare campaign to undermine incoming regulation has been branded bullying by a progressive Australian thinktank, which says the impact of the platform giants has been found to be “disastrous” for Australia.
In an open letter published Wednesday, The Australia Institute’s Centre For Responsible Technology accused the US tech giant of putting its profits before Australia’s national interest and using its huge platform to threaten Australians.
“You are using your power as one of the largest companies on earth to threaten us,” the letter states.
“When we ask you to consider paying a fair amount for the journalism from which you benefit, you threaten to charge us for your search engine.”
In the last week Google has railed against the government’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code, new rules allowing news publishers to seek payment from Google and Facebook for the use of news content by the platforms. The regulation would also require Google to share information with publishers about what user data it collects, how it uses it, and planned changes to its algorithms.
The code allows for binding decisions from regulators and a maximum penalty for breaches of the higher of $10 million, 10 per cent of the digital platform’s turnover in Australia in the past 12 months, or three times the benefit obtained by the tech giant as a result of the breach.
On Monday Google Australia managing director, Mel Silva, published an open letter denouncing the code, claiming it would unfairly favour “big news”, would threaten Google’s free services in Australia, and force it to share user data with publishers.
The search and advertising giant began adding alert messages to search and Youtube pages, directing users to Silva’s letter. The company also launched a paid campaign on twitter and used its official youtube twitter accounts to urge users to swamp the public consultation on the code which is still open until the end of the month. Combined the youtube accounts have over six million followers.
You can help support your favorite creators – you don’t have to be based in Australia to send your views on the draft code to the ACCC, just email [email protected] by 5 pm AEST on 28 August 2020.
We’ll share more ways to get involved in the coming days too.
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) August 17, 2020
The ACCC fired back, issuing a public statement accusing Google of spreading “misinformation” about the code. In what’s becoming an increasingly ugly spat, Google responded again saying it does not intend to charge for its “free” services but they were at risk because the code is unworkable.
Thinktank weighs in
On Wednesday The Australia Institute weighed in refuting some of Google’s claims and accusing it of contributing to the erosion of public interest journalism in Australia. It said the ACCC’s landmark inquiry into digital platforms had revealed Google and Facebook’s impact “on our national life has been disastrous”.
“You have exploited your understanding of our personal interests and behaviours to draw advertisers away from traditional media, destroying the business model that supported independent journalism for more than 150 years,” the letter states.
“In the past decade more than 5,000 Australian journalists have lost their jobs as your share of advertising has grown and grown.
“You have also been happy to use stories written by those journalists as if they were your own work, deriving value from something that isn’t yours.
“Now the ACCC has asked you to recognise this and contribute some of your massive profits back into media in order for this essential element of our nation’s public square to thrive.
“With this support there would be more journalists who could keep us informed, give all Australians a voice, monitor the activities of the powerful and ensure that all levels of government are held accountable. But instead of supporting our national interest, you have chosen to put yourself first. “