Business & Economy

Australia rebukes Google for blocking local news content

Sydney, Australia, Jan 15 (efe-epa).- The Australian government has condemned Google for blocking local news content from its search results and ordered the tech giant to pay media outlets for the news instead.

The government is considering the approval of a law to make online platforms such as Google and Facebook pay for news content they obtain from media companies, amid a loss of advertising revenue to tech companies.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Thursday that digital giants “should focus on paying for original content, not blocking it,” in response to Google’s move to block Australian news sites from some local users from its search engine as part of an experiment.

In December, the Australian government finalized a law to make technology companies negotiate payments to local media for the content that they post on their digital platforms.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the government will appoint an intermediary to decide the amount to be paid, according to the proposed bill.

Google and Facebook have expressed their opposition to the legislative changes saying the media outlets also benefit from the digital traffic to their own websites.

The measure comes in response to recommendations made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in a report in December 2019 on the impact that digital search engines, social media platforms, and other digital content aggregation platforms have on competition in media and advertising services markets.

In its report, the ACCC had said that digital platforms earned as much as 51 percent of the public spending in the sector in 2017 after doubling their share in the last five years at the cost of local print media, whose share dropped from 33 to 12 percent in the same duration.

Facebook, the most popular social network in Australia, boasts 17 million monthly users, around 68 percent of the total population in the country, while second-place Instagram, a subsidiary of Facebook, has 11 million users.

In 2017, Google collected 90 percent of search traffic generated on computers in Australia and 98 percent on mobile phones.

Like many other organizations and governments across the world, Australian authorities are concerned about companies such as Facebook and Google attracting large chunks of digital advertising revenue in a space where they do not produce the news material published on their platforms. EFE-EPA

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