Why is Google planning to shut Google search services in Australia?

Google has become an essential part of everyone’s life, and it seems quite impossible to live without it. Our daily activity, from checking morning news to sending mails, almost everything revolves around it. How horrifying it would be if google takes away its search engine facility; Australia is on the verge of experiencing this ordeal.

But why is Google threatening to ban its search engine for Australian users? If Google really bans it, what will be its effects on everyone from small to huge companies? And what are the options people in Australia have that could compensate for the need to google?

The clash between Google and Australia’s new law

On Wednesday, the Australian government commenced a new law in the parliament; that will obligate the technical giants like Google Search and Facebook Newsfeed to pay the country’s news organizations for publishing their journalism on their website. In the previous draft of July, only state-funded media, Special Broadcasting Services, and Australian news crop were mentioned; but commercial media businesses are also included in the new draft.

The draft law is officially called the New Media & Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. While reading the law in the parliament, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said; “(the law) will address the bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and digital platforms.”

Mr Frydenberg claims that for every $100 spend on online advertising; 53%, i.e. $53 goes to Google whereas 23%, i.e. $23, goes to Facebook. According to the government, the new legislation is made to provide the media fair reimbursement for their original contents and assist in vindicating public interest journalism. “It’s designed to level the playing field and to ensure a sustainable and viable Australian media landscape,” said Mr Frydenberg.

According to the new law, the giants will be free to negotiate the price they will be liable to pay for getting access to the content with the respective media organisations in Australia. If the companies cannot reach an agreement; the government will form an independent arbitrator to make the necessary decisions. Digital platforms, in case of not complying the decision; would be liable to pay fine to Aus$10 million ($7.4 million, €6.13 million).

How have Google and Facebook reacted?

Every day, an estimated 19 million Australian use Google search engine; every month, about 17 million people of Australia see, read or post news articles on Facebook. Despite many consumers, Google has made it clear that it does not agree to come in terms with the new legislation. It said, “The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to search and coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk 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,”

Me Silva, Google Australian managing director, says, that the legislation is not practicable in its present form. If it becomes law, it will hurt Google and other big, small publishers, businesses, and daily users in the country. She also said that Google is looking for a way forward to some modulation in the law that will be sustainable for google to pay the publisher.

In late 2020, Facebook has also threatened to ban the Newsfeed section for Australian users. Google is even running some secret trials from previous years of removing news from Australians’ search results but is not answering any questions about the trials. The US has also urged the Australian government to remove the legislation; saying the legislation to be “impractical, unreasonable and fundamentally imbalanced”.

To Me Silva’s statement, Scott Morrison the prime minister of Australia said in a press conference, “Let me be clear. Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our parliament. It’s done by our government. And that’s how things work here in Australia and people who want to work with that, in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats”

What are the other options available to Australians?

As it seems now that both the government and the companies are not ready to accept each other offers. However, Google has made it clear that other than search facilities, every other application or facility like YouTube, Gmail etc. will remain active in Australia as before.

In the worst-case scenario, the government will implement the law, and Google will “stop providing search” in the country. This will not be happening for the first time, and Google did this before in 2014 for similar reasons in Spain.

Along with business, small and colossal users will be drastically affected by the implementation. But fortunately, other search engines like Bing and Yahoo news from Microsoft will still be functional. Users will take time to adapt to the new change; businesses will have to adopt new techniques to pop up at the top of the search result as every search engine have their optimisation processes.

Losing Google’s search services would be shocking, but there are still other sites that have got the user’s back.