Friday, 18 December 2020 12:38

Google rejects news media code, says it is 'unworkable' Featured

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Google rejects news media code, says it is 'unworkable' Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Search giant Google has rejected the Australian news media code which was introduced into Parliament on 9 December, saying it "remains unworkable, but there is a way forward".

But, in a blog post issued on Thursday, Melanie Silva, Google vice-president for Australia and New Zealand, did not say what the company would do if the code passed as it was after it was scrutinised by a parliamentary panel next year.

She said the code, officially known as News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, had "serious problems that need to be worked through".

Silva said the code was not workable because it forced "Google to pay to show links in an unprecedented intervention that would fundamentally break how search engines work".

She said no website or search engine paid to connect people to other websites and claimed this would unravel a key principle of the open Internet.

A second objection that Silva raised was that the code required that Google give publishers special treatment. The reference was to the 14-day notice period of changes to algorithms that Google has to give publishers.

And, finally, she again objected to the arbitration model that is in the code, something which her employer has objected to from the start.

Instead Silva proposed that Google pay publishers through the company's own News Showcase. "This program, designed to drive traffic, lift subscriptions, and generate revenue for publishers, remains on hold in Australia until we can be sure that the final Code is workable," she said.

The initiative was announced by Sundar Pichai, the head of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, on 2 October.

Silva also wanted the arbitration model changed "to one that’s standard and fair".

"The current model still isn’t based in commercial reality," she claimed. "Ultimately, by imposing final-offer arbitration with biased criteria, it encourages publishers to go to arbitration rather than reaching an agreement."

She objected to the algorithm notification period, saying it "could be could be amended to require only reasonable notice about significant actionable changes".

Silva also rehashed a whole lot of other arguments she has put forward in the past, about how Google doesn't use news or publish it, but only links to it and also that news sites have a choice as to whether they wanted to appear in search results.

"In addition to the US$1 billion we invest in Google’s Australian operations annually, our search advertising and other platforms generate more than AU$35 billion in business benefits for more than one million Australian businesses," she claimed.

"During COVID-19 we’ve helped more than 1.3 million Australian businesses stay connected with their customers.

"We also contribute through taxes. In the 2019 calendar year, Google Australia paid $59 million of corporate income taxes on a pre-tax profit of $134 million. And we support 117,000 jobs in Australia, including 1800 jobs within Google and 116,200 across the wider economy."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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