The biggest tech companies love an ultimatum, but rarely articulate their threats. However, this week Google did just that, telling a hearing in the Australian Parliament that a bill requiring the company to pay news publishers for the right to link to their content “leaves us no choice but to provide the Cease Google search in Australia “.
The threat posed by the company’s Australian executive director Mel Silva is the latest escalation in a war of words over the proposal that seeks to undo some of the damage online business models have done to the country’s publishing industry.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference: “We do not respond to threats.” However, Google’s warning is hardly uncommon in an industry that refuses to encourage countries to go it alone with comprehensive regulation.
For example, in September last year, Facebook told an Irish court that it may have to withdraw completely from the European market if a court ruling banning the flow of data between the US and the UK is upheld. “In case that [Facebook] The transfer of user data to the US has been completely suspended, “argued the company’s Associate General Counsel.” It is not clear how it could continue to provide Facebook and Instagram services in the EU under these circumstances. ”
Similarly, tech companies have been warning for years that any attempt by the UK to regulate end-to-end encryption could result in their messaging services not being available in the UK.
But governments rarely hold their nerve long enough to speak the threats loud and clear. Facebook, for example, rowed its warning back in press releases to the Irish court, saying it was merely “to present the simple reality”; and these intelligence services like to murmur warnings in private, but have not yet seen the need to poke their heads over the parapet for a downcast fight.
However, Australia has a knack for fighting. Following changes in sales tax in 2018, Amazon already had such a stalemate, which resulted in the company refusing to ship imports to Australia in order to avoid charging taxes on those purchases.
For some Australians, however, this has been a win-win as it closed a tax gap while boosting local retailers. The loss of the Google search engine may be more felt.
Google has tracked similar threats in the past. Spanish users still cannot access Google News to this day after a law in the country trying to force Google to pay newspapers for extracts from links and headlines led the company to simply remove its news product.
Australian law, on the other hand, tries to avoid Google taking the easy way out. By asking for payments for links to news, even on the main search engine – and also through Facebook – the country is hoping to successfully generate revenue from Google regardless of its threats.
Unfortunately, the company has a bad poker face for Google. Although Australian senators were warned that they would have to withdraw from the country instead of paying the newly levied fee, Google on the other side of the world in France had agreed to do just that. In an agreement between Google France and the industry organization that represents the country’s news industry, Google pays royalties to individual news publishers to reuse their material online. Backed by France’s strong copyright protection for the news industry, Google had already negotiated with a number of publishers, including Le Monde. However, the new agreement sets a comprehensive precedent.
“The withdrawal of our services from Australia is the last thing Google wants, especially if there is another way,” Silva told Australian senators on Friday. It might pretend it doesn’t, but in France the company has already discovered this other path. And thanks to Google Translate, you don’t even have to speak French to read it yourself.