SYDNEY: Software giant Microsoft is confident its search product Bing can fill the gap in Australia if Google pulls its search over required payments to media outlets, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Australia has introduced laws that would force internet giant Google and social media heavyweight Facebook to negotiate payments to domestic media outlets whose content links drive traffic to their platforms.
The firms have called the laws unworkable and said last month they would withdraw key services from Australia if the regulations went ahead. Those services include Google’s search engine, which has 94% of the country’s search market.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has since spoken with Morrison about the new rules. The Australian prime minister said the software company was ready to grow the presence of its search tool Bing
“I can tell you, Microsoft’s pretty confident, when I spoke to Satya,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra, without giving further detail of the conversation. “We just want the rules in the digital world to be the same that exist in the real world, in the physical world,” Morrison added.
A day earlier, Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had requested a meeting over the law, and that they had talked, but that he would not back down on the change.
At a Senate hearing into the laws, Department of Treasury deputy secretary of markets Meghan Quinn said the Australian government would have limited ability to intervene if Google’s departure hurt businesses that rely on its search function.
Google is under similar pressures elsewhere around the globe to pay for news content. In December 2020, Google reached a deal with French newspaper publishers that set the groundwork for individual licensing agreements with payments linked to factors such as the amounts published daily and the traffic that they draw.
The sticking point for Google in the proposed Australian law is that it would establish a binding arbitration process to determine what an online platform must pay to a given news organization if the two sides cannot reach an agreement on their own.