Google sends “open letter” to Australians, Australia responds

Google, in their Open letter to Australians:

We need to let you know about new Government regulation that will hurt how Australians use Google Search and YouTube.

A proposed law, the News Media Bargaining Code, would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia.

There is so much to read into these words. There’s a feeling of worry, of being under threat. There’s the sense that Google is warning us, a sense of alarm. And there’s the irony of one of the biggest companies on the planet alerting us about losing our data to “big news businesses”.

Read the piece, draw your own conclusions. But do read about Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code.

From the announcement:

The Government has instructed the ACCC to develop a mandatory code to address commercial arrangements between digital platforms and news media businesses. Among the elements the code will cover include the sharing of data, ranking and display of news content and the monetisation and the sharing of revenue generated from news.

The mandatory code will also establish appropriate enforcement, penalty and binding dispute resolution mechanisms.

The way I read this, the News Media Bargaining Code is trying to shift control of the news back into the hands of the publishers and creators. Is this a good thing? Will this hurt Google and other aggregators? Will this help push money back into journalism? That last bit is what I am hoping for.

This morning, the ACCC (creators of the News Media Bargaining Code) responded to Google’s open letter:

Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so.

Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.

The draft code will allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services.

This will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook.

A healthy news media sector is essential to a well-functioning democracy.

This is important stuff.