Google Australia says government pulled pin on content-for-cash talks, hands in its homework anyway

And fires back with ‘we do for free what meatspace distributors charge for’ argument

Google’s Australian tentacle has hit back at Australia’s plan to plan to make web giants pay publishers for content shared on their networks.

In a Sunday roast penned by Google Australia managing director and veep Mel Silva, the company said it was on track to deliver everything asked of it in the consultation process “before the Government changed the deadlines and shifted focus to a mandatory code.”

“From the outset, Google actively engaged in the voluntary code process,” Silva wrote. “Google acted in good faith, working constructively by consulting with more than 25 news media businesses – broadcasters, print and online publishers from metro and regional areas. We met with some publishers on multiple occasions to work through and understand complex issues.”

Silva says Google Australia has sent its thoughts to local regulators anyway and did so on the previously-agreed timeline.

Silva didn’t say what was in that submission but her post makes the argument that publishers have always paid distributors of their content yet Google performs the same service for free.

“Everyone benefits from this exchange,” Silva writes. “While news content has significant social value, it is often difficult to make money from. And primarily news-seeking queries make up only a tiny percentage of queries we see. But by including news results next to other search results, we encourage users to click to view stories they might not have otherwise read, giving publishers the ability to show ads against those stories.”

Left unsaid is that Google could well place those ads and control the marketplace for those ads.

Silva does point out that webmasters can keep their results out of search results. But she ignores Australia’s call for transparency on the algorithms Google uses to decide which content reaches users’ eyeballs.

Silva seems to graze on the subject by saying “… our Search results, including links to news stories, have always been determined by relevance—not by commercial considerations. Google does not accept payment to appear in organic search results nor does it pay for sites to appear in search results.”

Australian regulators have not publicly responded to Google at the time of writing. Australia’s government plans to have its pay-to-link scheme ready by July. ®

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