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Google threatens to block search in Australia if 'pay for news' law is passed

Google
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Tero Vesalainen)

Tensions between Google and Australia’s Federal Government are continuing to escalate, with the tech giant threatening to pull some of its products from the Australian market entirely if legislation is passed that would require the company to pay Australian news media for the right to link to their content.

Mel Silva, the managing director of Google Australia, told an Australian Senate hearing today (January 22), that if the proposed code of conduct was passed, it would force the company to withdraw Google Search from Australia. 

“If this version of the code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Silva said in a statement to the Senate inquiry.

She further described the code in its current form as “unworkable”, and stated withdrawal from Australia is Google’s “worst-case scenario”.

The proposed code of conduct has been drawn up by consumer-rights watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and instructs tech giants such as Google and Facebook on how to share the revenue they generate from using content produced by news outlets.

According to Google, part of the proposed revenue sharing would require the tech giant to pay media organizations for showing links and snippets to news stories in its search results.

In a video statement posted to YouTube (below), Silva says this requirement goes against how Google Search functions, and that “paying for links breaks the way search engines work”.

According to Silva, Google is not against a new law, but feels that the current option is an unfair one for its business.

“This provision in the code would set an untenable precedent for our business, and the digital economy,” she said in a statement.

In response to Google’s statements made in the Senate, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is doubling down, telling a press conference today that the “we don't respond to threats”.