Google threatens to remove its search engine from Australia as tech titan takes on an advanced nation state

The contention that Google is the most powerful corporation in history, more powerful even than an advanced, continent-sized nation, is being tested in real time before our eyes. The BBC reports:

Google has threatened to remove its search engine from Australia over the nation's attempt to make the tech giant share royalties with news publishers.

Australia is introducing a world-first law to make Google, Facebook and potentially other tech companies pay media outlets for their news content. [emphasis in original]

The Aussies are not backing down:

Australian PM Scott Morrison said lawmakers would not yield to "threats".

I confess that I love Australia and the spirit of its people. Australia has also been a loyal ally of the United States, fighting alongside us in every war since it became a nation. In some ways, it resembles us even more than Canada, despite the great distance separating our two nations.

Though Australia is far from Google's largest market, the proposed news code is seen as a possible global test case for how governments could seek to regulate big tech firms. (snip)

Australia's code would tie Google and Facebook to mediated negotiations with publishers over the value of news content, if no agreement could be reached first.

While Google can no doubt absorb the loss of a market (even a rich one) of 25 million people, the precedent has got to worry them. Media outlets have a lot of influence in the advanced democracies, the richest markets for Google. It risks ceding a market to competitors, and such a foothold could expand to other nations, fragmenting Google’s reach.

…lawmakers accus[e] Google of "blackmail" and bullying Australia for raising the reform.

"It's going to go worldwide. Are you going to pull out of every market, are you? Is this about stopping the precedence?" asked Senator Rex Patrick. 

Ms Silva replied that the code was "an untenable risk for our Australian operations".

Mr Morrison said his government remained committed to progressing the laws through parliament this year. 

"Let me be clear: Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That's done in our parliament," he told reporters on Friday.

That last point is the crux of the matter. Nations have sovereignty and armed forces.

Australia is fighting for the survival of its media:

Australian print media has seen a 75% decline in advertising revenue since 2005, according to the government. 

Google's threat to remove its entire search product is its most severe yet. News accounts for just 12.5% of Google searches in Australia, according to lawmakers.

Will Google forgo the bulk of its presence in Australia to protect its revenues on an eight of its business there? I suspect it fears the precedent more than the financial loss.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that this battle is epochal. Google and Australia are creating the template for the future of news distribution.

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