- Last month, Australia rolled out a draft rule that would require Google and Facebook to pay news outlets for their content.
- Regulators claimed the move would help news organizations that were struggling due to falling ad revenue after an inquiry found that for every $100 spent in online advertising, nearly half went to Google and almost a quarter went to Facebook.
- Google used its homepage in Australia to lobby people against the proposal in a popup that linked to an open letter. The letter claimed the rule would hurt Google and YouTube, put their free services at risk, and could lead to personal data being given to news organizations.
- In a blog post also published Monday, YouTube made similar arguments and also claimed the move would hurt small creators.
- Australia’s consumer protection agency disputed the claims and accused Google of spreading “misinformation” in its letter.
Google Lobbies Against Proposed Rule
Google published an open letter Monday alerting users about a proposed law in Australia that would require Google and Facebook to pay news media outlets for news content.
Millions of Australians who visited their local Google homepage received a popup alert which warned that Google’s search engine was at risk of being hurt by a new regulation. That alert linked then links Google users to the company’s letter.
The letter references a draft regulation called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which was first rolled out last month. Regulators argued that the new rule was needed to level the playing field for news media organizations, which have for years argued that Facebook and Google should pay them for displaying their content.
In Australia in particular, many news outlets were struggling to stay afloat even before the pandemic because ad revenues have fallen. According to estimates from the Australian Newsroom Mapping Project, since January 2019, over 200 newsrooms have reduced service, closed temporarily, or shut down permanently.
In 2019, a government-lead inquiry that found both Google and Facebook were taking a disproportionate share of ad revenue despite the fact that a lot of their ad content came from news media organizations.
According to The Guardian, the inquiry found that for every $100 spent in online advertising, nearly half of that, or $47, went to Google alone. Facebook took in nearly a quarter at $24, and just $29 went to the rest.
Both Google and Facebook have expressed concerns and opposition to the draft legislation, but Google has taken a much more hardline response.
Google’s Open Letter
In the letter published Monday, Google argued that the proposed regulation “would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia.”
The letter goes on to claim that the rule would give news companies an “unfair advantage” because they would be “given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else.”
“The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you,” it stated.
Google also said that the rule would require it to tell news businesses how they can access data about how users utilize their products, and argued, “There’s no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses.”
The company additionally claimed in the letter that it already partners with Australian news media, pays them “millions of dollars,” and sends them “billions of free clicks every year.”
“The law is set up to give big media companies special treatment and to encourage them to make enormous and unreasonable demands that would put our free services at risk,” it added.
YouTube’s Blog Post
YouTube also condemned the rule in a blog post published Monday, where the company reiterated many of the same points Google had brought up about preferential treatment and data sharing, broadly claiming it would “have negative consequences for the YouTube Community.”
“There are several areas that deeply concern us about this proposed law because it prioritizes the traditional news industry over smaller creators of content and the platforms where they find an audience,” the blog post continued. “We are particularly concerned that it provides unfair advantages to large news businesses over anyone else online, including the very creators that make YouTube, YouTube.”
The post then goes on to make the same argument Google made about giving publishers information that could inflate their ratings, which it claimed meant that creators “could receive fewer views and earn less.”
YouTube also argued the law will “create an uneven playing field when it comes to who makes money on YouTube.”
“Through this law, big news businesses can demand large amounts of money above and beyond what they earn on the platform, leaving fewer funds to invest in you, our creators, and the programs to help you develop your audience in Australia and around the globe,” it added.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Responds
In a statement responding to Google’s open letter Monday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) accused the company of spreading “misinformation” in its letter.
“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,” it said. “Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.”
Rather, the statement explained, the draft regulation would simply “allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services” and “address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook.”
The ACCC’s statement concluded by noting that the agency will continue to consult on the draft with interested parties, including Google, until the consultation period ends on Aug. 28.
This content was originally published here.