Google says Australian proposal puts free services ‘at risk’

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Google says an Australian proposal to make tech giants pay news publishers for their content would put its free services in danger there.

The Silicon Valley titan lashed out at the proposed “News Media Bargaining Code” in a Monday open letter, saying it could give large media businesses an “unfair advantage” in Google’s signature search engine and its YouTube video platform.

“The law is set up to give big media companies special treatment and to encourage them to make enormous and unreasonable demands that would put our free services at risk,” Mel Silva, a Google Australia managing director, wrote in the letter.

But the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said Google’s letter contains “misinformation” about its proposal, which is still in a public comment phase. Google won’t have to give news companies additional user data or charge people for its free services “unless it chooses to do so,” officials said.

The law “will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook,” the commission said in a statement.

The Australian panel released the draft measure last month that would let news companies negotiate payments from Google and Facebook for the use of their content.

Google suggested that the law would hand publishers information that would help them “artificially inflate” their rankings in search results and on YouTube. The company also criticized a provision requiring tech firms to tell news businesses “how they can gain access” to certain user data.

“There’s no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses,” Silva wrote.

Google has long resisted demands to pay publishers for stories that it uses on its Google News and Google Discover services. The company said in Monday’s letter that it sends Australian outlets “billions of free clicks every year,” and it announced deals in June to pay media groups in Australia, Germany and Brazil for their content.

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