The company’s main concern with the proposal is that it “would require payments simply for links and snippets just to news results in Search,” according to Silva.
“The free service we offer Australian users, and our business model, has been built on the ability to link freely between websites,” she said.
Google and Facebook have tussled with publishers for years over how they display their content, with media companies arguing the tech giants should pay them for the privilege. Critics of the two tech firms point out that since they dominate the online advertising business, it puts news publishers in a bind and leaves them scrambling for leftovers.
The new legislation would allow certain media outlets to bargain either individually or collectively with Facebook and Google — and to enter arbitration if the parties can’t reach an agreement within three months, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which put out the proposed legislation.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison hit back at Google later on Friday.
Asked about Morrison’s remarks, Google declined to comment.
A warning of ‘consequences’
The US giant is now proposing three changes to the code, including how it would compensate news publishers.
The company also wants to amend a requirement that would force Google to notify publishers about changes in its algorithm, saying it should do so only “to make sure publishers are able to respond to changes that affect them.”
“There is a clear pathway to a fair and workable Code,” said Silva. “Withdrawing our services from Australia is the last thing that I or Google want to have happen — especially when there is another way forward.”
An aggressive battle
In the same Senate hearing on Friday, Simon Milner, Facebook’s vice president of public policy for Asia Pacific, said the company could ultimately block news content in Australia, though he emphasized a commitment “to make the law workable.”
Milner told lawmakers there was already a “deterrent effect of this law on investment in the Australian news industry,” citing a recent decision by Facebook to launch a news product in the United Kingdom instead of Australia.
Regulators say the legislation is needed to level the playing field for the news media in Australia, as newsrooms across the country have reduced service, closed temporarily or permanently shut down.
Others warn that such laws threaten internet freedom.
“The code will benefit Murdoch. It will also benefit Guardian, ABC & SBS [the Australian broadcasters], your local paper” and other media outlets,” she tweeted.
Barnet also said the internet is no longer an open space, rendering such concerns moot.
“The internet is not open anymore. It is controlled by a couple of global monopolies who make their money from your data,” she wrote. “The internet was once more open, it was once a more equal and democratic space, but that era is over.”
— Hanna Ziady contributed to this report.
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