Google, locked in a fight with Australian lawmakers, is playing its strongest card.
The company said Friday that it will shut down its search engine in the country if a controversial bill designed to benefit the news media becomes law.
The legislation would impose sweeping new rules requiring Facebook and Google to pay media organizations for the use of their news content. The two tech companies would be required to bargain with the country’s news publishers on compensation in order to share or display their stories.
At a hearing in Canberra on Friday, Google executive Mel Silva said the draft legislation “remains unworkable,” and would be “breaking” the way millions of users searched for content online.
The company’s main concern with the proposal is that it “would require payments simply for links and snippets just to news results in search,” according to Silva.
Facebook is also pushing back, warning that it could ultimately be forced to block news content in Australia.
Australian politicians bristled at Google’s response — signaling a tough fight to come. “We don’t respond to threats,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference.
It’s no secret that the news media, which has often struggled to make money off digital products, has ceded huge swaths of the advertising market to Google and Facebook. The question is whether the problem can be solved by regulators.
Such an approach may be gaining momentum. On Thursday, Google announced it would pay news outlets in France for the use of their content online in a landmark agreement that could soon be replicated elsewhere in Europe under new copyright laws.