Australian Prime Minister Rallies Global Allies Against Big Tech

February 2, 2021 Updated: February 3, 2021

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hoping world leaders can cooperate on reining in the influence of Big Tech firms such as Google and Facebook.

The call comes after the Australian government’s endeavours to introduce the News Media Bargaining Code evolves into a public spectacle between the government and Big Tech, garnering global attention.

At a National Press Club address, the prime minister referring to the Media Code told reporters: “I would like to see more alignment between the world’s economies on these sorts of things.”

“We want to work with the companies (Google and Facebook) on these sorts of things. We want a practical outcome. But the world has changed,” Morrison said on Monday.

He said regulatory frameworks were not keeping pace with the digital world, and public interest journalism was suffering as a result.

“The golden rule for me is, is what happens in the real world has to happen on the digital world. Just the same rules,” Morrison told Sky News Australia on the same day. “A lot of the regulation and how taxation works, antitrust competition laws, they’ve got to catch up.”

“You can’t have these platforms with a business model, which is about being in the Wild West forever … The sheriff eventually gets the rule of law in place in this world.”

Morrison is due to meet with G7 leaders in June where many fellow attendees, including Canada, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom are already examining new laws to cope with the influence of the social media giants.

Competition regulators from the Five Eyes’ nations meanwhile have intelligence-sharing arrangements underway aimed at regulating the influence of the major digital companies.

Just last week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault told fellow members of Parliament that the Liberal government would table new laws to address how Big Tech will compensate news companies.

According to The Globe and Mail, Guilbeault revealed they were watching the events in Australia and France closely.

Over 300 French publishers recently agreed to a deal with Google France to pay for news.

However, Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code differs. It has a wider scope and sets up a framework for all Australian eligible news media companies to negotiate with Google and Facebook for payment.

The response from the Silicon Valley companies has not been as welcoming.

Both companies stated they were prepared to remove news content to avoid paying news media altogether.

Google Australia went even a step further last week telling a Senate committee they would consider withdrawing the Google Search service entirely from Australia, prompting an angry response from presiding senators.

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has appealed directly to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, according to an ABC Insiders interview.

When pressed on whether he’d change his mind, Frydenberg responded, “Mark Zuckerberg didn’t convince me to back down, if that’s what you are asking.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella meanwhile, held low key discussions with the prime minister last week to discuss the possibility of Microsoft-owned Bing becoming the main search provider in the country, along with alternative providers DuckDuckGo and Brave.

According to web analytics service Statcounter, Bing is currently Australia’s second most popular search engine, with just 3.6 percent market share. Google is currently the leader with 94.4 percent.