Google has threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia, if a proposed law is implemented that would force Google to pay news publishers for their content.

“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,” Google Australia and New Zealand VP Mel Silva told Australia’s Senate Economics Legislation Committee.

“We have had to conclude after looking at the legislation in detail we do not see a way, with the financial and operational risks, that we could continue to offer a service in Australia,” she added, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The tech giant claims the Australia is trying to make it pay to show links and snippets to news stories in Google Search, saying it “would set an untenable precedent for our business, and the digital economy” and that it is “not compatible with how search engines work.”

“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,” Mel Silva said.

Facebook has also threatened to remove news from its feed for all Australian users if the law forcing the companies to negotiate payments to news media companies goes ahead.

The would entail that the 19 million Australian monthly Google users would no longer be able to use its Search feature, and 17 million Australians monthly Facebook user would not be able to see or post any news articles on the social media site.

Australian authorities, however, have been sceptical towards the threats.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, at a press conference in Brisbane, said that the government would not respond to threats.

“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,” he said.

Chris Cooper, exucutive director of Reset Australia, an organisation that lobbies for the regulation of big tech companies, said that Google was bullying a sovereign nation through its threats.

“Today’s egregious threats show Google has the body of behemoth, but the brain of brat,” he stated. “When a private corporation tries to use its monopoly power to threaten and bully a sovereign nation, it’s a surefire sign that regulation is long overdue.”

Google’s threat to Australia came the same day it signed an agreement with 300 French publications to pay them for their content appearing in Google Search results.


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