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What you need to know

  • Google Australia has published an open letter on its homepage, telling users that the proposed News Media Bargaining Code could 'hurt' their search experience.
  • The proposed law will require tech giants such as Google and Facebook to pay media outlets for news and inform them in advance of any major algorithm changes that could affect their rankings.
  • Google says the law will encourage large media companies to make "enormous and unreasonable" demands that could potentially put its free services at risk.

Google Australia today published an open letter about the proposed News Media Bargaining Code on its homepage, telling users that the law could "force" it to provide them with a "dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube."

The open letter claims the proposed law will require Google to provide an unfair advantage to news media businesses over everyone else. Large news media businesses will be able to use the information from Google to improve their search rankings over competitors, even if someone else provides a better result. Google says search data of its Australian users may also be at risk, as the law will force the search giant to tell news media businesses "how they can gain access" to its users' data.

You've always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what's most relevant and helpful to you. We could no longer guarantee that under this law. The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses - news media businesses - over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business. News media businesses alone would be given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else, even when someone else provides a better result. We've always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking. The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you.

Responding to Google's open letter, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a statement saying the letter contains misinformation about the draft News Media Bargaining Code.

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.

Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.

The draft code will allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists' work that is included on Google services.

This will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook.

As part of its news licensing program, which was announced in June, Google had planned to team up with news publishers in Germany, Australia, and Brazil and pay them for their content. However, The *Financial Times now reports Google has decided to "pause" the program in Australia because of the proposed law.

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