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ACCC attacks Google over ‘misinformation’

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Google of releasing “misinformation” about the Federal Government’s plan to make them bargain with Australian news companies over payments for news content.

Last month the ACCC delivered a draft code of conduct (the draft News Media Bargaining Code) governing bargaining between Google, Facebook and news media companies. The code would require Google and Facebook to negotiate with news media businesses in good faith over the inclusion of news content on their services.

The code also sets “minimum standards” such as providing advance notice of changes to algorithmic ranking of news, recognising original news content and providing information about how and when Google and Facebook collect user data.

On Monday 17 August, Google published an open letter to Australians via their platforms and social media. A pop up note with a link to the letter appeared on its search page saying “The way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new Government regulation”.

In this letter, managing director and vice president of Google Australia and New Zealand, Melanie Silva, alleged that the News Media Bargaining Code would lead to “a dramatically worse Google Search and Youtube”.

“The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you.”

Ms Silva also alleged that the draft News Media Bargaining Code could lead to “data being handed over to big news businesses”.

“Under this law, Google has to tell news media businesses “how they can gain access” to data about your use of our products. 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 ACCC responded to Google’s open letter, condemning the tech giant for misleading the public 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.”

Consultation on the code closes on the 28 August 2020. To get in touch with the ACCC, please follow the link: https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/digital-platforms/news-media-bargaining-code/draft-legislation


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Ann Wen
Ann Wen
Ann is a journalist at Dynamic Business with a background in commercial law and research. She is interested in SME tax law, public policy and Australian innovation.