Google threatens to shut off search engine in Australia over news law

Google on Friday threatened to shut off its search engine in Australia if officials there approve a law requiring it to pay news publishers for their content.

The Silicon Valley titan escalated its aggressive fight against the proposal, saying the measure would “break the way Google works” because the company would have to pay to show links to news articles.

“This code creates an unreasonable and unmanageable financial and operational risk to our business,” Google Australia managing director Mel Silva said in an open letter, echoing comments she made before an Australian senate committee.

“If the code were to become law in its current form, we would have no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.”

The controversial proposal would allow news companies to negotiate payments from Google and Facebook for the use of their content that appears in search results or news feeds. An arbitrator would decide the price if the parties are unable to reach a deal.

Google had previously said the measure would put its free services — including its search engine and YouTube — “at risk” in Australia if it became law. Google now says that YouTube would not be affected by the proposal in its current form.

Aussie Prime Minister Scott Morrison fired back at Google’s threat to block search access, saying the country makes rules for “things you can do in Australia.”

“People who want to work with that in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats,” Morrison said.

Google’s offensive came after US trade representatives Daniel Bahar and Karl Ehlers asked Australia to ditch the proposed law, saying it would be “to the clear detriment of two US firms.”

Mel Silva, the managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, appears via a video link during an Australian Senate inquiry on Jan. 22, 2021.
Mel Silva, the managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, appears via a video link during an Australian Senate inquiry on Jan. 22, 2021.
Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP

The proposal has broad political support down under and is backed by publishers such as News Corp., which owns The Post and publishes eight of Australia’s top 10 newspapers.

With Post wires

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