In Australia, the tug-of-war over the behavior of Google and Facebook has reached new heights. In a Senate committee on Friday, the companies tightened their threats to shut down services on the fifth continent.
Business correspondent for South Asia / Pacific based in Singapore.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison countered clearly: “Australia regulates what you can do in Australia. And people who want to work under these rules in Australia are very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats. ”
The reason for the increasingly heated disputes between the American technology giants and the government in Canberra lies in the arrangement that the Internet platforms have to agree with publishers on fees for messages and reports taken over. If there is no agreement, Google and Facebook are threatened with an arbitration award that will be binding.
At least Facebook has reported the dispute to the American government. This then recommended Canberra to delete the proposed law, as it could even burden the free trade agreement.
“ The world looks to us on this matter. Google’s statements today are part of a pattern of threats that will chill anyone who values our democracy, ”said Peter Lewis, director of the Responsible Technology Center at the Australia Institute. “As tough as they appear, Google and Facebook have turned the planned code of conduct into a test of the ability of our democratically elected representatives to govern. You have to show steadfastness in the face of this kind of harassment. ”
“You threaten the Australian people”
Right at the beginning of the hearing, Mel Silva, Google’s Australia boss, threatened to shut down again. She spoke of an “intolerable financial and operational risk” if the new rules were introduced: “That would leave us with no choice but to make Google Search inaccessible in Australia.”
Last week, Google interrupted its service “on a trial basis” for “one percent” of users – not only the government actually saw this as a bare threat before the Senate hearing. Green Senator Sarah Hanson-Young asked the Google boss on Friday: “Why are you coming here, threatening the Australian people, removing all your search results just because they are unable to negotiate?”
Silva said she was interested in risk assessment. “Much of the new rules remain vague and one-sided. For example, the costs of the publishers’ production are taken into account, but not the costs for Google. ”She added:“ We have never concealed the fact that the search function for our users is supported by a business model. ”
“Our diverse media sector is threatened”
Silva gave further insight into this on Friday morning: The American company processed 95 percent of all searches on the Internet in Australia. In the past year, he earned 4.3 billion Australian dollars (2.75 billion euros) from advertising sales and paid 59 million Australian dollars in taxes – a good 2 percent on advertising income. The n she gave in: “We are not against paying publishers. We are not against an agreement. But what counts are the details. ”
After months of unsuccessful negotiations, however, the publishers are not taking this from the Americans. Chris Janz, head of the Nine broadcaster network, countered Silva in front of the Senate: unlike the policy stipulated, credible negotiations never came about. “Without a strong, regulatory intervention, our diverse media sector is threatened.” Google generates high revenues, “without paying a single cent for what journalism creates. And if you don’t play along, Google has shown that it doesn’t shy away from making you practically disappear from the Internet. ”