Google has launched a brazen attack on the Australian press, threatening to end free web searches after the country's media watchdog said the tech giant should pay for news content.
Anyone using the search engine in Australia will now be presented with an aggressive yellow exclamation mark with a link to an "open letter" attacking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The AACC's draft code, created at the behest of Chancellor Josh Frydenberg, mandates that Google, along with other tech giants like Facebook, give a fraction of their $ 6 billion advertising revenue to news companies.
The battle between Canberra and Silicon Valley is being watched closely by governments around the world, including London and Washington, who have raised concerns about the "advertising duopoly" operated by Google and Facebook.
Google has been accused of spreading “misinformation” by claiming Australians would not get free internet searches if tech giants like them were forced to pay for the news they used
Everyone who uses the search engine is now confronted with a yellow exclamation mark with a link to an "open letter to the Australians" from the Australian managing director Mel Silva
Australians are greeted today by a strong letter from Google's executive director in Australia, Mel Silva.
Those who click on the link will be faced with a warning of the end of free internet research and data submission to major news companies.
"We need to inform you of new government regulations that are affecting the use of Google search and YouTube by Australians," said Ms Silva's letter.
& # 39; A bill, the News Media Bargaining Code, would force us to give you a dramatically worse Google search, and YouTube could result in your data being shared with major news companies and the ones you use free services endanger Australia. & # 39;
Google's chief executive in Australia, Mel Silva: "We need to inform you of new government regulations that are affecting the use of Google search and YouTube by Australians."
But Australia's consumer watchdog, who has suggested getting tech giants to pay media organizations for news shown on their platforms, has struck back, accusing Google of not telling the truth.
"The open letter published today by Google contains misinformation," said Rod Sims, chief of the Australian competition and consumer commission.
Last month, the ACCC stated that Google and Facebook would be forced to pay media companies for the right to use their stories or fines of up to $ 10 million for violating a copyright treaty.
In a world first, the competition authority is proposing a new draft code that instructs the American search engine and social media giants to negotiate fair payment agreements with commercial media.
Google suggested that its rankings would ultimately favor news outlets that had commercial agreements with them under the ACCC proposal.
The Australian Competition and Consumers Commission has accused Google of publishing a letter that "contains misinformation".
"The law would force us to give one group of companies – news media companies – an unfair advantage over anyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business," said Ms. Silva.
“News companies alone would get information that would help them artificially rank up above everyone else, even if someone else came up with a better result.
"The proposed changes are not fair and will mean Google search results and YouTube will get worse for you."
Ms. Silva also claimed that Google needs to share data with media companies.
"You trust us with your data and our job is to keep it safe," she said.
"According to this law, Google must tell media companies how to access data about your use of our products."
Social media lecturer in media at Swinburne University, Belinda Barnet, pointed out that Google's parent company Alphabet made more than $ 45 billion in profit in the fourth quarter. Revenues totaled $ 38.3 billion, or $ 53 billion
"There is no way of knowing if data submitted is protected or how it might be used by media companies."
Mr Sims strongly denied Google's open letter, saying there was no need to "charge Australians for using its free services like Google Search and YouTube unless they choose to".
"The open letter published by Google today contains misinformation about the draft news media negotiating code that the ACCC is trying to address," he said.
Mr Sims said the draft code was designed to address "a significant imbalance in bargaining power between Australian news media companies and Google and Facebook".
"A healthy news media sector is essential to a well-functioning democracy," he said.
Social media lecturer in media at Swinburne University, Belinda Barnet, pointed out that Google's parent company Alphabet made more than $ 38.3 billion ($ 53 billion) in earnings in the fourth quarter.
"Oh, cry me a river, Google," she tweeted.
ACC chairman Rod Sims strongly denied Google's open letter, saying there was no need to "charge Australians for using its free services like Google Search and YouTube unless they choose to".
"A trillion dollar company with $ 46 billion in Q4 earnings is trying to convince YOU that it is somehow dangerous to share a * tiny fraction * of its profits with the Australian media."
According to the ACCC's draft code, multinational corporations would face a maximum fine of $ 10 million if Google or Facebook breached a content sharing agreement and were convicted in federal court.
The digital giants could also be fined three times the commercial benefits they received from illegally distributing news content, or ten percent of their annual sales in Australia last year.
Under the proposed new deal, Google and Facebook would be forced to arbitrate with media companies through third parties if they failed to come to an agreement with them.
An independent arbitrator would make a decision within 45 working days.
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