Google threatens to withdraw search engine from Australia

Google has threatened to remove its search engine from Australia over the nation’s attempt to make the tech giant share royalties with news publishers.

Google search page shown on smartphone

Australia is introducing a landmark law to make Google, Facebook and potentially other tech companies pay media outlets for their news content.

But the US tech giants have fought back, arguing the laws are onerous and would damage local access to services.

On Friday, Google told a Senate hearing the laws were “unworkable”.

“If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” said Mel Silva, managing director of Google Australia.

“We do not see a way, with the financial and operational risks, that we could continue to offer a service in Australia.”

Australian politicians are scheduled to debate the laws in parliament this year.

Google Search is the dominant search engine in Australia and has been described the government as a near-essential utility with little market competition.

The government has argued that because the tech giants gain customers from people who want to read the news, the tech giants should pay newsrooms a “fair” amount for their journalism.

Google’s threat to remove its primary product is its most severe yet, in a debate being closely watched globally amid increasing debate about regulating the power of big tech.

Ms Silva said the laws would set “an untenable precedent for our businesses” and were not compatible with the free-flowing share of information online or “how the internet works”.

Screenshot of the Open Letter
image captionGoogle has run ads in its browsers in Australia advocating its case

Last week, after reports surfaced in local media, Google confirmed it was blocking Australian news sites in its search results for about 1% of local users. It said it was an experiment to test the value of Australian news services.

Facebook last year also threatened to stop Australian users from sharing news stories on the platform if the law went ahead.

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