Google Threatens to Remove Search Engine in Australia Over Proposed Law

January 22, 2021 Updated: January 22, 2021

Google on Friday said it may make its search engine unavailable in Australia if the government carries out a plan for search engines to pay for news 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,” Mel Silva, Google’s managing director for the region, told Australian senators. “And that would be a bad outcome not only for us, but also for the Australian people, media diversity, and the small businesses who use our products every day.”

Silva then said that the draft legislation “remains unworkable,” adding that it would be “breaking” the way users searched for content in the country.

The law “would require payments simply for links and snippets just to news results in Search,” said Silva. “The free service we offer Australian users, and our business model, has been built on the ability to link freely between websites,” she added.

The Australian law proposed last year stipulates that media companies will be able to request payments from Google and Facebook for news articles that are posted there.

Facebook and Google have argued that some publishers can benefit from their links being posted to their platforms. However, the two companies have received criticism for their moves to censor or diminish the reach of certain users, news publishers, and websites.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in response to Google, said that “Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia.”

“People who want to work with that in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats,” he said to reporters Friday.

If Google withdrew its search engine from Australia, users would have to use alternatives such as the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo, Startpage, Bing, or Yahoo, among many other search engines.

Big Tech companies have also faced pressure from authorities elsewhere to pay for news.

On Thursday, Google signed a deal with a group of French publishers paving the way for the company to make digital copyright payments. Under the agreement, Google will negotiate individual licensing deals with newspapers, with payments based on factors such as the amount published daily and monthly internet site traffic.

Facebook said it opposes Australia’s rules and has threatened to remove news stories from its site in Australia. Simon Milner, a Facebook vice president, said the sheer volume of deals it would have to strike would be unworkable.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.