News, Culture & Society

Why is Google taking Australians for fools

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

Not true. The new law will make no difference at all to how Australians use Google Search and YouTube. You will be able to search both in exactly the same way you do at present. The only change will be that Google will have to pay for Australian news content which at the moment they use for free. As Google’s Australian revenue in 2019 was $4.8 billion it should not find this difficult.

‘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.’

Not true. The Code will not force Google to provide a worse service, on the contrary it contains provisions to prevent it removing Australian news websites and replacing them with foreign ones. It will not lead to your data being handed over to news businesses, big or small. This is the ACCC’s response Google’s claim: ‘Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so’. Nor will the Code put free services at risk. The ACCC says: ‘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.’

‘The way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new regulation. You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you. We could no longer guarantee that under this law. The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses – news media businesses – over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business … We’ve always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking.’

Blatantly untrue. Google’s search algorithms are a secret ‘black box’, and rankings are regularly changed without warning or explanation, sometimes with catastrophic effects for businesses.

To give just one example: June 2019 Google made an algorithm change which reduced the Daily Mail’s search visibility by 50pc worldwide – meaning dramatic reductions in the number of Daily Mail stories appearing in your search requests. There was no warning or explanation – nor did Google inform you, the user. Three months later our search visibility was suddenly restored, again without warning or explanation. Many other websites have had similar experiences.

The Code simply provides that Google will have to give warning and explanation of changes that could impact traffic to a news website – and tell it how it can minimise any damage. If Google thinks that is unfair, fine – they can provide the same information to every website. Now, that would be fair.

‘Your Search data may be at risk. You trust us with your data and our job is to keep it safe. Under this law, Google has to tell news media businesses ‘how they can gain access’ to data about your use of our products.’

Not True. As the ACCC says, Google will not have to share any more user data than it does already. The ACCC’s explanatory notes make clear it is lists of types of data Google must provide to news media businesses, not the data of individual users. In any case, why should users trust Google more than any other business? Only last month the ACCC launched Federal Court action over the alleged misuse of users’ personal data by Google, and Google has previously been fined millions of dollars in Europe for misusing users’ data.

‘Hurting the free services you use.’

Not true. Google’s services aren’t free – you pay for them with your data, which Google collects in order to sell advertising targeted at you. Google doesn’t pay news media businesses millions of dollars. It currently pays nothing at all for the news it uses – and only began offering to pay when it realised the ACCC was going to call its bluff by introducing legislation.

It has also bought control of digital advertising by taking over smaller businesses to create a virtual monopoly, where it acts as both buyer and seller in digital advertising markets it controls, and for which it makes the rules. It forces news media businesses and advertisers to use its services and charges both millions of dollars, some it in hidden fees. The result is consumers pay more for the goods they buy. These anti-competitive practises are under investigation by the ACCC here in Australia and by regulators in other countries.

This law wouldn’t just impact the way Google and YouTube work with news media businesses – it would impact all of our Australian users, so we wanted to let you know.

Not true. The only impact this law will have on Australian users is that intended by the ACCC – that instead of Australian journalism dying through being starved of revenue by monopolistic internet giants, it will have a sustainable future, for the benefit of all Australians. Oh, and Google – global annual revenue in 2019 $161 billion dollars – might make just a little less profit

You’ll hear more from us in the coming days – stay tuned.

True, regrettably. Google has won immunity from libel laws all over the world by claiming it has no opinions. Well, it does when its bottom line is under threat. It runs one of the world’s largest lobbying operations and have no doubt, Australian legislators will be bombarded with misinformation as Google tries to overturn the ACCC’s proposals. Watch out!