Google Australia boss Melanie Silva has claimed newly proposed laws to make the tech giant pay news outlets for use of content would “break” the search engine and
Ms Silva has rejected a final version of the federal government’s news media bargaining code, which was tabled in parliament last week, arguing it remains unworkable and fails to understand how the search engine operates.
“Unfortunately, while the Government has made some changes, the legislation still falls far short of a workable Code,” Ms Silva said in a blog post posted on Friday morning. “As the legislation goes to a Senate committee for inquiry, it has serious problems that need to be worked through.”
Under the proposed laws, if the tech giants cannot reach commercial agreements with news businesses within three months, the parties must enter a “final offer” arbitration process. A panel will be given the power to pick one of the parties’ respective offers for payment or find a more reasonable offer. The panel will take into account a range of factors including the value Google and Facebook given to news outlets through referral traffic. Inclusion of this value in arbitration was considered a major concession for the tech giants by the government.
Other requirements under the code include 14 days notice of algorithm changes and non-discrimination provisions to stop the tech giants taking retaliatory action against news organisations. The code did not change drastically from its draft form, but did take into account several concerns raised by Google and Facebook.
Some media companies cautiously welcomed the government’s announcement. Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton described the proposed laws as sensible and fair, while News Corp executive chairman Michael Miller declined to be interviewed but told The Australian Financial Review that he had no issue with the consideration of referral traffic.
Nine Entertainment Co boss Hugh Marks was more critical of the concessions and accused the government of bowing to threats from Facebook and Google. Nine owns this masthead.
Facebook has said it plans to remove news articles from its platform while industry sources previously told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that Google privately told the federal government it was considering withdrawing from the market completely.
But Ms Silva remains frustrated with the federal government’s proposal despite the concessions. She says the requirement for Google to pay for the existence of links was an “unprecedented intervention” the would break how search engines operate.
“No website and no search engine pays to connect people to other websites, yet the Code would force Google to include and pay for links to news websites in the search results you see,” Ms Silva said. “This sets the groundwork to unravel the key principles of the open internet people use every day—something neither a search engine nor anyone who enjoys the benefits of the free and open web should accept.”
Ms Silva also raised concerns about notice of algorithm changes and other internal practices, arguing it would drive up operating costs and give news outlets special treatment. Her final issue remains with two-way arbitration.
“It imposes an unfair and unprecedented baseball arbitration model that considers only publishers’ costs, not Google’s….and requires the decision-maker to choose a single ‘final offer’,” she said. “We’ve identified these issues repeatedly during the consultation process because they would do serious damage to the fundamentals of our services — the reasons Australians choose to use Google in the first place.”
Ms Silva said she will continue to work with the government to amend the proposed legislation, but is is unclear whether there will be a resolution. Facebook has not made detailed public commentary on the proposed laws since they were finalised, but it is likely the tech giant shares some of the concerns of its rival Google.
Source: Thanks smh.com