Last month Google fired a salvo across Australia’s boughs when the search engine giant threatened to block searches Down Under over a dispute about paying publications for content.
The move by the Australian government that caused consternation at Google – and at Facebook – involves making sites that aggregate and link to news stories obligated to pay the publications they’re linking to. Naturally, Google doesn’t like this as, not only would it affect the company’s profit margin, but if other regions adopted this policy, it could end up blowing a hole through Google’s influence as an online first stop for news.
The two parties have engaged in a war of words since then, with Google stating that should this policy be implemented, “it would give us [Google] no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” and the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying bluntly that “we [Australia] don’t respond to threats.”
No Google? Try Bing
It looks like the Australian PM is putting across that his administration is not going to blink first in this particular game of chicken. According to a report on Gizmodo, Morrison has said that if Google makes good on its threat, Australians should simply turn to another search engine, such as Bing.
At the National Press Club of Australia this week, Morrison was asked if he was confident that any other search engines would suffice should Google pull out of Australia.
“I can tell you Microsoft’s pretty confident,” came the response.
While this may all sound tongue-in-cheek, it seems that Scott and his government aren’t prepared to back down on their plans to make big tech pay for linking to content.
“These are big technology companies. And what’s important for Australia is that we set the rules that are important for our people,” Morrison said. “And having a news environment in this country that is one that’s sustainable and is supported commercially, then this is vital to how democracies function.”
While it remains to be seen whether Australia will stick to its guns, but one can be sure that both big tech, governments around the world and journalists everywhere are watching this situation unfold with more than a little interest.