By ROD McGUIRK, Associated press
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Microsoft said on Wednesday that it supports Australia’s plans to pay for news to the largest digital platforms and will help small businesses transfer their ads to Bing if Google leaves the country.
Microsoft is positioned to increase its market share for search engine Bing after a Google executive said at a hearing in the Senate last month that if the government enacted a bill that would allow tech giants to pay, it would render the search engine unavailable in Australia. for news content.
Microsoft President Brad Smith said he and Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella told Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Communications Secretary Paul Fletcher at an online meeting last week that “Microsoft fully supports the so-called News Media Bargaining Act.”
Morrison confirmed this week that he and Nadella spoke about Bing’s replacement for Google in Australia.
“I can tell you, Microsoft is pretty sure that Australians will not be worse off,” Morrison said on Monday.
Smith said he assured government leaders that small businesses wishing to transfer their ads from Google to Bing could do so simply and without transfer costs.
“We believe the current legal proposal represents a fundamental step towards a more equal playing field and a fairer digital ecosystem for consumers, business and society,” Smith said.
The Australian Institute Responsible Technology Center, an independent think tank, welcomed Microsoft’s stance and urged Google to withdraw from threatening to shut down its search services in Australia.
“This is an important development and it should send a message to both Google and Facebook that their network dominance in Australia is as strong as they respect Australians,” said Peter Lewis, director of the center.
Although Bing is Australia’s second most popular search engine, it has only 3.6% market share, according to web analytics service Statcounter. Google says it has 95%.
Belinda Barnet, senior lecturer on media at Swinburne University, said Bing and other search engines can fill the gap left by Google and benefit.
“People need to understand that Google advertising in searches will not be personalized, so Bing doesn’t know and obviously doesn’t care if you’re in the market for yoga pants,” Barnet said.
“Some of these platforms, particularly Google and Facebook, are already giving you more false information if you’re prone to clicking on false information, so in a way they form this echo chamber,” he said. “But a product like DuckDuckGo and Ecosia won’t know you’ve been looking at 100 articles on how bad vaccines have been in the past and they’ll give you the most accurate information they can find.”
Peter Strong, CEO of the Council of Small Business Organizations Australia, an advocacy group, expected the small business disruption caused by Google’s departure from Australia to be short-lived.
“We’re not panicking,” Strong said. “But it will have a short-term effect.”
“It would be a bad thing for Google to step down, but if Bing takes over it will be the same,” he added. “An organization has the capacity to blackmail a country, and that should never happen,” he said and called for more government regulation.
A Senate committee examining the draft legislation will report to the government next week.
The government-proposed mandatory code aims to pay Google and Facebook to Australian media companies fairly for using news content from tech giants to news sites.
Smaller search engines like Bing don’t have a payment scheme to connect users to Australian news, but the government has not rejected this option.
Google has been pressured by officials elsewhere to pay for the news. Last month, it signed an agreement with a group of French publishers that allowed the company to pay digital royalties. Under the contract, Google will negotiate individual license agreements with newspapers, with payments based on factors such as daily and monthly website traffic.
But Google is resisting the Australian plan because it will have less control over how much it will have to pay. In the Australian system, if an online platform and a news business cannot agree on the price of the news, an arbitration panel will make a binding decision on payment.
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