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Google threatens to leave Australia if Media Code Goes Ahead

Search giant Google has hinted off the record it may have to abandon Search in Australia if the media code becomes law. Last Friday, it made the threat public at the Senate enquiry. 

Google Australia managing director Mel Silva told a Senate hearing on Friday that the proposed news media bargaining code remained “unworkable”, and the company was prepared to exit the Australian market.

Google’s issue of course is not the fee structure itself, but the precedent set if Google has to pay for news in one tiny little market like Australia – which would risk it’s “international business model”. 

To clarify, Google is only saying it will disable search, not it’s other products like Gmail, Youtube, and Google Docs. 

At the same hearing, Facebook again said it would remove news from its product if the code became law. 

Is it time to migrate to alternative search engines

Meanwhile, in France Google has agreed to pay news publishers

Techcrunch reports that Google has agreed to pay French publishers for using snippets of stories in search results and in Google News. 

While the fight in France was different, there are many parallels between this French settlement and the current media laws being fought in Australia. 

Google threatened to remove the snippets from search and news in response to the new fees, but in April last year, the French competition watchdog banned this move, saying Google’s withdrawal of snippets would be unfair and damaging to the press sector, and likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant market position.

Not wanting to open a “monopoly” can of worms, Google agreed to negotiate with France’s media industry association – L’Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale

For Australian media organisations looking for a quick win, they should note this law was introduced in 2019, and has only just passed its final appeal process. 

Back Home, and Australia is starting another fight with Big Tech

The Fin reports Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, has warned big tech platforms that they must do more to tackle the problems caused by anonymous accounts on their services.

Ms Inman Grant – a former public policy director at Twitter released a position statement on the dangers of anonymous accounts, leading to online bullying and abuse, and fuelling the global rise of conspiracy theories such as Qanon. 

Inman Grant is not calling for an end to online anonymity, saying it can provide a “powerful form of protection for victims of domestic violence, whistleblowers and people living under authoritarian regimes”

Under her proposal, Individuals could be fined up to $111,000 for anonymous abusive behaviour, such as posting revenge porn. 

Content hosts such as social media, dating or games platforms could be slugged with fines up to $550,000.

Concepts such as “digital licence plates”, blockchain-based identity management systems and digital signatures are being explored as potential solutions to authenticate people online, without them being publicly identified or even known to the tech companies.

And Finally, is Apple Making a VR Headset? 

Mark Gurman of Bloomberg reports Apple is preparing to launch a “niche” and “expensive” VR headset in 2022. 

Gurman says the device is not expected to shift large numbers, and is designed more as a prototype design for Apple’s expected AR Glasses, due in 2023 or beyond. 

It should be noted that these reports are based on off the record comments, and prototype numbers seen by Gurman – but that does not necessarily mean we will see either glasses as shipping products. 

Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal tweeted “This would be interesting but if so niche why sell it at all? Doesn’t feel very Apple.” 

Apple’s focus has been on AR since the company included the technology in iPhones back in 2017. Taking a sidestep into VR seems a little out of character for the company.