YouTube / FB / Google - at risk in Australia?

You may have seen the “open letter to Australians” from Google …

It makes an interesting read - on the one hand the level of alleged government interference is a potential concern - but YouTube a ‘free service’ - not quite …

The issue around the safety of user data is one thing, but while one could feel uncomfortable about the legislation, it seems the real issue here is that Google won’t be able to do much of this simply on their own terms - re what is said in “Hurting the free services you use”.

Many were wondering what might try to fly under the radar during the pando :wink:

In case it disappears (how could it, we could search for it couldn’t we?) It reads:


Open letter to Australians

We need to let you know about new Government regulation that will hurt how Australians use Google Search and YouTube.

A proposed law, the News Media Bargaining Code, would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia.

The way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new regulation

You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you . We could no longer guarantee that under this law. The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses - news media businesses - over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business. News media businesses alone would be given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else, even when someone else provides a better result. We’ve always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking. The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you.

Your Search data may be at risk

You trust us with your data and our job is to keep it safe. Under this law, Google has to tell news media businesses “how they can gain access” to data about your use of our products. There’s no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses.

Hurting the free services you use

We deeply believe in the importance of news to society. We partner closely with Australian news media businesses — we already pay them millions of dollars and send them billions of free clicks every year. We’ve offered to pay more to license content. But rather than encouraging these types of partnerships, the law is set up to give big media companies special treatment and to encourage them to make enormous and unreasonable demands that would put our free services at risk.

This law wouldn’t just impact the way Google and YouTube work with news media businesses — it would impact all of our Australian users, so we wanted to let you know. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to get this proposal changed so we can protect how Search and YouTube work for you in Australia and continue to build constructive partnerships with news media businesses — not choose one over the other.

You’ll hear more from us in the coming days — stay tuned.

Thank you,
Mel Silva, Managing Director, on behalf of Google Australia


It is interesting. From the ACCC response to this Google letter, one may get the impression Google’s letter is only about protecting its own interests and not of the consumer nor those who produce the content it is alleged to poach. The ACCC alleges the letter contains misinformation.

The crux of the issue is should (social) media platforms repost news to increase their own traffic and revenues, reducing the opportunity for the news authors to generate revenue by the same content on their own news website. It doesn’t seem fair that these platforms can use others content, without paying for it…however using this content to maximise their own revenues and profit.


Dear Google -Mel Silva,

There is no such thing as a free lunch!
I’m assuming that applies as much at the diner down the road from Google Headquarters when you need to grab a quick meal on the way home or to work, as it does for the rest of us.

If there is a real risk, not mentioned in the letter, it’s Google might loose freedom of access to the most valuable product it on-sells for real money, the consumers who choose to use Google’s services.



A bit like the pot calling the kettle black. Keeping your data safe for whom? Trust? That ain’t happening with Google. I sometimes feel they are like a low grade infection, you may tolerate the damage but when it gets more serious you either die or you attack/destroy it (either way they are dangerous but you weigh the risks until it becomes needful to remove them).

The part about News Media businesses getting access also is just as bad, why do they need access to my data, are they after copyright infringers, are they seeking to get demographics and thus potential advertising targetting data for me. Will it just be limited to them? Will this open the ability to gather private data about me without the use of a warrant (A warrant should show hopefully a proven need to know) by law enforcement or Government?

I don’t trust Google but then I don’t trust our Governments all that much either. Our Govts are often such that if they can’t do it by the front door they create/require the backdoor.


[Edit: I would like to preface my comments by saying I am not a fan boy of either Facebook or Google.]

This reminds me of Gerry Harvey. When the sales are falling, call on the LNP to hinder the opposition. Thanks to Harvey we have had the GST added to all overseas purchases, even if it cost the Government more to administer this than they receive.

Neither of the major papers complained when they had dominance in the marketplace, or when they had regional monopolies for significant periods. In recent times the written press has been in exponential decline, only very recently shutting down about 100 regional newspapers with 500 job losses. Not long before that they shed hundreds of journalists reducing the quality of what was published. Rather than competing with the electronic platforms, Murdoch has called on the Government to kneecap Google & Facebook.

It should be noted, that the printed news publishers haven’t been forced to have their material published. They have allowed Google & Facebook (GaF) to publish their news stories and could opt out if they wished. Google publishes ‘snippets’ which are much like click bait and lead readers to the mastheads and oft paywalls where the masthead profits. Obviously, their mastheads appearing on GaF is a commercial benefit.

Now that their business models are failing at an exponential rate, they want GaF to make up the shortfall. It is not GaFs fault they are failing. Tastes have changed, and people want their information delivered differently. GaF is currently delivering what is desired, and the print press is not.

This proposed fee-for-news has been attempted in Spain, Germany, & France, and has led to sizable declines in local news reporting. It won’t harm GaF because news reporting is responsible for under 5% of their traffic, but it does drive a lot of traffic to the newspaper publishers’ sites some of which are behind paywalls.

As a consequence of this change, in my opinion GaF will stop publishing Australian news, and the news print publishers will suffer even greater declines in revenue. They will then have to sack even more journalists, and we will get even less researched local news articles.

In all likelyhood, the major newpapers will go the way of the eight track tape. Since the local print editions were closed, some small independent local papers have popped up in regional areas to replace them. This may be the new print news model.

This is not really about Google and Facebook hindering papers. It is about the papers desperately trying to hold on to a market that they have already largely lost.

In the long run we will be the ones to suffer from the lack of Australian news not Google and Facebook.


The Conversation is pretty scathing about the claims made by Google.

It’s tempting to conclude that Google is simply trying to gaslight its users by sowing doubt about the wisdom of the new regulations – because it doesn’t want to pay.


I almost get the impression this is like a couple of competing schoolyard bullies duking it out on the oval at lunchtime with everyone watching on and hoping they both get hurt … the danger of course is if they team up (like Gezza and the pollies did on GST as @meltam noted). If we can’t win against each other we can still win against everyone else … it’s a bit more complicated in that one corner has the pollies, one has social media, one ‘big press’ for want of a better word and the final with the also-rans who are allowed to team up for collective bargaining, even with ‘big press’. Could be quite a brawl …

As always, truth and honour are absent from proceedings :wink:


So the papers hire so-called reporters and journalists (lets not go there), and the reports are disseminated by Google and Facebook and Youtube and others, no royalties or payments involved? Is that attacking the competition or asking reasonable payment for services rendered?

Are you aware restaurants and venues who play background music are required to pay royalties for the ‘privilege’? How is that different? These internet giants should be paying royalties globally or not publishing others’ content. I’ll accept the differing formats of google vs facebook vs youtube, etc can introduce some arguable differences in applicability as some platforms do it as their business models but on others the membership does it, policed or not.

US advice

Australia advice


Well I never!!! Google/Youtube having to pay for something in Australia!!! Perhaps if Google/Youtube paid their fair share of taxes in Australia they may have some cred in this matter. A pox on Google/Youtube, the goverrnment & the one-eyed Aussie media organisations.


Yes I am aware :). The difference, & it’s a big one, is that the artists did not give permission for their works to be used, whereas the newspapers have assented.

I have no issue with GaF & YouTube being required to pay for content. Perhaps the newspaper should have negotiated a deal with those who wanted to carry their work at the time they approved? Also, the newspapers could turn the news feed taps off if they chose by withdrawing consent to use their work. I think that they know that if they withdrew consent they would lose a lot of income due to the traffic generation stopping.

This isn’t about GaF being bad boys and using material without consent (as the hospitality did with background music). The real issues that need to be addressed are 1) the newspaper industry in its current format is in its death throws & 2) the imbalance of power that GaF hold. The second point needs to be addressed by Government on a much broader scale than that proposed, for example where is there mention of consumer rights?

So this is why it looks like a Gerry Harvey-like campaign by Murdoch to hobble competition.


Not just restaurants and venues but all businesses playing music are required to pay royalties to ARPA.


Why should we expect to be able to tame and manage the monsters, which are largely OS entities to start with? Yes, it’s worth trying.

Do we need a National or privately owned Aussie version of Google. We also stretch what a Not for Profit is these days so a third possibility.

Just make Eg your go to instead of Google. (I suspect that domain name has already an owner so some other suitable Aussie label.) Wombats do have a habit of rooting things out and being single minded which is a useful metaphor.

I tend to use as a source by choice, and type other web addresses direct rather than asking Google to find the obvious, browser manipulation excepted.

There will always be good and bad in having a more local alternative to Google. I’d suggest more good than bad, assuming some suitable promotion as the go to place for Aussie tourism. Cut Google out by removing it’s exclusive business model, as exclusion is unlikely to succeed. Although in the instance of Amazon and copyright protected IP others seem to have no issue with differentiating market access.


How so?


They haven’t, and they are fighting for the same revenue base as Google.

Newspapers/News websites make money by traffic to their own websites. The more traffic, the more valuable the advertising space is on their website. Google, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube etc (lets call them predatory websites - parasite could also be apt which I explain later) is also about traffic and advertising revenue. The more traffic to its own websites, the more valuable the webpage real estate is for advertising.

The issue is that with predatory websites poaching and presenting another agency’s news on its own website, this directs traffic towards the predatory website. This results in less traffic going to the website run by the authors of the website. The predatory websites with the increase in traffic, can generate more revenue…while the news agency website with suffers from less traffic and resulting less revenue generation.

Overtime, many of these traditional news agencies disappear (due to financial losses from unable to generate sufficient revenue in the tech age) and we are left with maybe a limited number of news agencies giving us the news. This has the significant risk to the consumer and democracy as we know it as it will cause the biasing of news (or limiting the number of different views on particular issues) as a limited number of outlets will generate news (those predatory platforms that attract traffic).

The predatory website re-posting information from other websites costs them noting, while the news agency has significant underlying costs before the news if posted on their own site.

Predatory websites are using the news agency websites to generate more revenue without having any relationship with the news website. They are in effect parasites, sucking the juice from the news agency websites to their own (and no-one elses) advantage.

Imagine if you had a extremely successful blog or wrote an award wining novel and a predatory website posted the same content on their own website freely to the consumer and made revenue from the increased traffic to their website. I expect one would not be happy as all the effort to run the blog/write the book has been exploited by someone (a business) to increase their profits whilst minimising their costs.

This is why the legislation is important. The predatory platforms will spread misinformation about the changes as it is in their interest to do so. When passed, it could significantly affect their existing and future profits. There will be pressure in other countries to do likewise. The letter from Google is one such example of misinformation as they will try and fight the status quo to allow them to exploit others for their own gain.


From the Sydney Morning Herald, 18 March 2019 What Rupert Murdoch really wants from Google and Facebook: Disclosure: News Corp is the owner of newspapers that compete with the news publication you are reading right now. And The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have an advertising partnership with Google.

I can’t find a parallel reference to a commercial relationship with News Corp, but I did find this which supports my contention that Murdoch is trying to kneecap GaF. ‘Unparalleled power’: News Corp calls on ACCC to break up Google. It seems that if he can’t do it one way, he will try another.


I would not try to contradict an assertion that Murdoch (or any other company) wished to kneecap google and friends, but you did state

and that is what I replied to, and they are different aspects. I am not aware of any company that has ‘assented’ to their product being used without consent and without royalty or other payments, to other for-profit entities.


An advertising partnership is that " The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age , Fairfax will in effect outsource of the job of booking some digital advertisements that appear on its websites to Google’s automated system."

This in effect means that Fairfax runs Google ads on its media website to save it doing itself…saving the cost of having advertising and advertising booking teams. This is quite different to allowing Google to broadcast Fairfax news content on its own platforms.


@PhilT included in the article @phb cited:

Fairfax and Google will also tackle product development, with digital subscriptions to be a major focus. “One way people are introduced to our mastheads and products is by Google search. Figuring out how we can work together to introduce people to our subscription products is really key,” he said.

One potential example could see Google promote articles higher up the search page if the user is a subscriber to that publication.

So by virtue of this advertising deal and associated product developments, Fairfax have ipso facto assented to Google using at least snippets of Fairfax’s news to lead viewers to their paywall. Hence the Fairfax masthead appearing on Google has been for at least 2.5yrs of financial benefit to Fairfax.

Other companies can refuse their articles being used. From part 2 of the ACCC report:
If the owner of a website does not want a search engine to produce snippets, it can incorporate a piece of code onto the website to prevent a search engine from scraping content and producing snippets.”. Or they

This use of snippets is legal and legitimate according to part 2 of the ACCC inquiry report:
Digital platforms reproducing a snippet of a copyright-protected news article does not infringe
copyright protections if the snippet does not reproduce a substantial part of the article”.


Contracts law would likely not hold that contention as being an ‘assented’ license for unrestricted use. Advertising and product development are, unless or until a court decides otherwise, disparate activities to replicating content, for example, as is driving readers to particular pages.

Lets not delve into technicalities as excepting for the use of the word ‘assented’ we are not in disagreement.

This is an interesting discussion because in the days before and even in the early days of the internet companies paid for advertising and whether it worked or not, they paid. How different it is today.


I agree. It has been interesting to delve into the rather volumous ACCC report to get the real information.

Let me conclude by laying out where it started, that is the Terms of Reference:

Matters to be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to:
i. the extent to which platform service providers are exercising market power in commercial dealings with the creators of journalistic content and advertisers;
ii. the impact of platform service providers on the level of choice and quality of news and journalistic content to consumers;
iii. the impact of platform service providers on media and advertising markets;
iv. the impact of longer-term trends, including innovation and technological change, on competition in media and advertising markets; and
v. the impact of information asymmetry between platform service providers, advertisers and consumers and the effect on competition in media and advertising markets.