Early 2021 has been jammed packed with news in the United States. Sieges at the Capitol, baseless claims of fraud, a historic second impeachment of Donald Trump, and a new administration tackling the COVID-19 crisis. With so much happening all at once many important stories can get lost in the fray.
If you haven’t been paying close attention to the news, you may have missed the controversy going on in Australia in regards to Google and Facebook. Although not many news sites have put much effort into covering the developing story, they should reconsider as Google potentially pulling out of Australia, will have global ramifications and will shift the meaning of global power and sovereignty in ways we have never seen before.
To catch you up to speed, Australia is crafting a new piece of legislation called the “News Media Bargaining Code”. This new law would force companies like Google and Facebook to pay an amount of money (this value has yet to have been set) to use advertising and stories from local media outlets.
For decades Google has been profiting off of using free stories and ads from media sources not just locally, but worldwide. This profit comes at a cost to local media sources who are quickly losing vital revenue to larger corporations. Australia’s proposed law would help give power back to local sources and restimulate small businesses.
Google, not wanting to lose any profit, is staunchly opposed to the bill. After unsuccessfully lobbying to change the bill so it would be more under Google’s control, the company made a declaration that if the bill were to pass, they would have no choice but to remove Google search engines from Australia. Not long after this happened, Facebook agreed to do the same.
So why is Google threatening to remove their search service from Australia such a big deal? Well, as I am sure many of you may have noticed in your own daily lives, Google search controls a large portion of the internet as well as a variety of real-life products such as Chromebooks and Google Nests.
By removing their service from the country, Google will effectively cripple Australia until the country can find or create a functioning alternative. The scariest part is Google is fully aware of this fact.
The company is attempting to strong-arm an entire nation to avoid a precedent that has the potential to affect Google profits worldwide. This is where the situation becomes very important. What happens in Australia now with Google will set a standard for what will happen when the same or similar issues pop up in other nations.
If Australia relents to Google’s strongarm tactics, a non-governmental organization (NGO) will just have stopped a sovereign nation from creating legislation. This has never happened before and would change how we need to think about NGOs and the power they hold on the world stage. Make no mistake, if Google wins here, the likelihood of any other nation being able to make the inverse decision of Australia will be extremely slim.
In this way, the precedent that will be set is that working with companies like Google and Facebook, nations will have to give up some of their sovereignty. This is a dangerous precedent to set for corporations and it is why more people should be paying attention to what is going on.
Recently, even Microsoft has gotten involved, trying to urge the U.S. to create legislation similar to the “News Media Bargaining Code”. As people who live in the U.S., we should pay close attention to what happens with Australia and Google over the next several months, as it will set the stage for the our country in the future.
BBC. (2021, January 22). Google threatens to withdraw search engine from Australia. Retrieved February, 2021, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55760673
Kaye, B., & Dave, P. (2021, February 12). Analysis: Google partners brace for hit as search giant threatens australia exit. Retrieved February, 2021, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-media-google-analysis/analysis-google-partners-brace-for-hit-as-search-giant-threatens-australia-exit-idUSKBN2AC0IK