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Google has prominently promoted it’s reaction to the proposed draft, however Google itself has made an impact on the news industry and reacted to similar situations before.
Recently (about two days ago), Google has been promoting an alert on Google Chrome, search and other platforms. It claims that the way Australians search on Google is at risk due to new Australian regulation. Part of the drafting process for the legislation also discusses potential compensation for news companies.
The first thing to note is that the regulation known as the News Media Bargaining Code is still being drafted and also applies to Facebook.
As stated in Google’s Press Release by Mel Silver the new legislation only targets the news media niche and not all of Google Search and Youtube.
The press release paints Google as a smaller company as opposed to the ‘big news businesses’ and essentially claims that free services will be put at risk, because of deteriorated search results and possible privacy breaches.
Similar legislation was passed in Spain, Googles first responsive was to advocate to their users directly. Once the legislation passed they simply deranked news organisations and shut down their news channels.
Due to the popularity of search engines and specifically Googles own services, the way we consume news is much different than before. Not only is there Google search where users can find specific information, but there is also the Google News section in Search, the Google News app (integrated into most android phones) and AMP sites.
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), is one of the latest innovations by Google that allows publishes to streamline the content to mobiles by keeping a consistent web design and allowing loading time to be faster by utilizing caching and user first designs. Technically the AMP project is open source, however it has only been popularised due to Google’s influence. It is notoruly difficult to implement yet Google Search Console (a way for webmasters to find out about how Google indexes its sites) will bring up errors to push publishers to use it.
Technically it’s great for the consumer since the end experience is more streamlined access with more content.
However, there are vocal objections to it especially from publishers who are struggling to monetize their content. Print media has already been taking a drastic hit, which influences the quality of journalism. Due to COVID News Corp recently announced the suspension of over 60 community newspapers. Putting aside issues that Australia has a high media concentration (practically dominated by News Corp and Fairfax), the impact of the loss of local newspaper will be felt severely by remote communities who may feel like they’ve lost their voice.
At the moment, these proposed changes will only impact News Outlets. There are provisions in the legislation stating that Google will need to give 28 days notice before any algorithm changes. However, they don’t need to disclose what the changes are. Google is claiming that News Outlets will have a greater competitive advantage, but the algorithm changes will most likely only impact that Niche.
Australians publishers and news outlets should be keeping a keen eye on the latest developments and any changes to the News Bargaining Legislation. Hopefully, the Australian Government has learned from what happened in Spain and news will continue to be accessible.
For those outside the publishing niche, it is still up in the air on how these changes will affect everyone else. However, its a good case study on how Google reacts to changes in the legal environment.