The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has hit back at Google after the US tech giant began a campaign to oppose proposed media bargaining laws yesterday.
In a statement on Monday afternoon, the ACCC slammed an open letter published by Google Australia Managing Director, Mel Silva, saying it contained “misinformation” about the proposed legislation.
“Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so,” the ACCC said.
“Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.”
On Monday, Google displayed a warning on the Google home page which said the way Australians use Google was “at risk from new government regulation”.
The warning linked to Silva’s open letter, which claimed the proposed News Media Bargaining Code would force the company to offer a “dramatically worse Google Search and [Google-owned] YouTube”.
“You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you,” Silva said.
“We could no longer guarantee that under this law.”
The code of conduct would let media organisations bargain with digital platforms over payment for news content they produce.
Head of YouTube APAC, Gautam Anand, threatened content creators, telling YouTubers the laws would “mean you could receive fewer views and earn less” and would leave YouTube with “fewer funds to invest in you, our creators, and the programmes to help you develop your audience in Australia and around the globe”.
But the ACCC stands by the draft code of conduct created in response to its mammoth Digital Platforms Inquiry which criticised the “distortionary” market balance tipped in the favour of tech giants like Google and Facebook.
Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, made no indication the government would back down on its proposed reforms to curb the power of Silicon Valley.
“The government remains committed to introducing this significant reform with a world-leading mandatory code,” he said in a statement.
“The inquiry found a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses that produce original content and the digital platforms.
“As a result, the government is consulting on the implementation of a mandatory code to govern relationships between the parties, increase competition, strengthen consumer protection and ensure the sustainability of our media landscape.”
Shadow Communications Minister, Kelly Rowland, indicated bi-partisan support for the draft legislation, telling Sky News that she wanted to see “a proper, functioning code [of conduct]”.
“I think that is essential for news media in Australia, particularly at a time when revenues have been under such stress,” Rowland said.
“We’ve had COVID [and] we’ve had this disruption going on for such a long time [with] advertising revenues going through the floor.”
The consultation period for the draft legislation ends on 28 August.