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Inquiry’s bumpy ride awaits, after tech giants’ “blackmail” tactics

As the Senate inquiry into the Digital Media Code began on Friday, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has expressed her displeasure over the lack of negotiating spirit Facebook and Google have brought to the halls of Parliament in Canberra.

In fact, after Day 1’s proceedings were completed, Hanson-Young, in her role of chairing the Senate inquiry, gave the Silicon Valley tech media giants an almighty serve in response to their testimonies.

Hanson-Young even went as far to express that their tactics of sticking to their own principles threaten an essential pillar of democracy in Australia, that of a free press.

And Hanson-Young, in return, has shown the Senate inquiry’s challengers that she is ready to wage a toe-to-toe battle, or even a bumpy ride, to fight for better journalism in Australia.

“We know that Australians value good quality journalism in this country. And in order to make good quality journalism in this country sustainable [to this point], we’ve needed to pay for it,” Hanson-Young said after the opening day’s formal presentations.

“The tech giants have been getting away with it for far too long, and with very little regulation, and one of the results is that journalism in this country is suffering,” she added.

Moreover, Google – through testimony and statements provided by Mel Silva, its managing director in Australia and New Zealand – has threatened to geo-block its services to Australian users should the Digital Media Code Bill come to fruition.

“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to search and coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk,” Silva said.

“If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.

“This is our worst-case scenario, we do not want to be in this situation, we would love to get to an outcome where there is a workable outcome for all parties,” she added.

Meanwhile, Hanson-Young views Google’s position as a devious negotiating tactic equivalent to holding Australian users over a barrel.

“We are going through elements of the legislation, and there may be elements that need to be tweaked,” Hanson-Young admitted, in fairness.

“But I’ll tell you what – you don’t walk into the Australian Parliament, even if you’re among the biggest companies in the world, and especially if you’re not paying tax in this country, and blackmail the Australian Parliament and expect to get your way,” she added.


Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, holding tech giants to account in chairing an inquiry into the Digital Media Code Bill (Photo from


Silva said during the opening day’s testimonies that Google has a history of negotiating with other countries to cut deals and bring about compromises with media companies and news publishers where the latter groups get financially compensated but at rates that are suitable to them.

“There is, however, a workable solution for Google where we would pay publishers for value, they would create and curate content and panels that would exist across several Google services. These are deals that have been done all around the world, 450 so far,” said Silva.

Meanwhile, Facebook has adopted a similar stance to that of their Silicon Valley tech neighbours, also threatening to cease with publishing links and stories from Australian media providers upon passage of the Digital Media Code.

If this exists as a virtual case of Facebook unfriending Australian content consumers, Simon Milner, vice president of public policy at Facebook, sees it as his company’s unwavering corporate policy.

Milner told the inquiry that his company had three concerns about the proposed legislation and that a possibility of a series-circuit or daisy-chain effect could ensue, starting with the mandating of commercial arrangements with every Australian media publisher.

“The sheer volume of that we regard as unworkable,” Milner maintains, in defence of Facebook’s position.

Milner also says that his company has issues with the nature of negotiations between parties as being one of binding arbitration versus an open system of good faith negotiations, leading to a non-differentiation clause.

That clause essentially means that prevents one of the tech companies, such as Facebook, from offering commercial terms to certain publishers and changing how content is displayed regardless of whatever deals have been agreed to or not.

“It means if one publisher is out, [then] all Australian publishers are out,” Milner said.

Hanson-Young rejects the notions of the tech giants, seeing their positions as untenable towards the big picture of striking fair deals for Australia’s media companies.

“If you ever needed an example of what big corporate power looks like, this is it,” Hanson-Young said.

“This is a failure of the market – and it’s about time that we regulate big tech, and it’s about time that we ensure that big corporations do not continue to have such a stronghold over democracy,” she added.

At present, amounts of collective remunerations have been debated, although those in the mainstream press – such as Nine chairman Peter Costello and News Corp Austral-Asia CEO Michael Miller – have bandied about $600 million to $1 billion as being the appropriate figures.

With the inquiry is set to continue this week, Hanson-Young said that while negotiations between the government and the tech giants may be inevitable, the Digital Media Code is a much-needed element of overall media reform, and possesses a far-reaching impact.

“The way we ensure that is to ensure that all of this country’s outlets, no matter whether it’s The Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, or any of the local country newspapers, the ABC, the public broadcasters, that their content created by those journalists and media agencies is actually paid for,” Hanson-Young said.

“These big tech giants have been taking this content, and using it as a part of its business model to make big profits from it for far too long.

“It has to change,” she added.


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  1. Josephus

    Aren’t there many other Internet search engines? Duck Duck etc.We can just use them instead.

  2. Matters Not

    Some might remember:

    “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come,”

    It was a message printed on thousands of posters, placards and then broadcast widely. It became one of the most recognised slogans in Australia’s political history. Further, it profoundly influenced the outcome of an election. A political master-stroke.

    It then gave rise to Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB), then Border Force while ensuring the political futures of Morrison and Dutton while condemning so many refugees to years of misery – which continues to this day.

    Yet that general policy of keeping Australia safe is somewhat powerless today when it comes to the internet and those who have appropriated it.

    Methinks it’s an uneven contest with big tech odds on to win because the government will retreat (with a face saving compromise hammered out on the political anvil). Sad as that may be.

    Thus we are unlikely to hear – We can’t decide what comes to this country and the circumstances under which it comes. Sovereign borders will be but a distant memory.

  3. Roscoe

    so what they want is for Google to pay old Rupe to direct me to his web site that I will then have to pay old Rupe to view his good journalism(?), sounds like win win for old Rupe and co

  4. Kerri

    Isn’t this plan just pandering to that ex-Australian known for his meddling in international politics?

  5. Lawrence Roberts

    We won’t be threatened, that’s not the Australian way. We will do what tax avoiding, American citizen Murdoch wants. This strategy will lose a lot of gmail voters but might mean Newscorp start a search engine business. Think on that!

  6. Kaye Lee

    Yeah, I don’t really understand this one. Google and Facebook just direct people to other sites which then make revenue from paywalls or advertising.

    Perhaps we should be talking about a tax arrangement instead?

  7. New England Cocky

    Perhaps a right to negotiate with the Australian government should be linked with the payment of corporate taxation in Australia.

    No Pay Taxation, no speak/negotiate with Australian Parliament.

  8. William Olson

    @Kaye and @Cocky, did you catch the not-so-thinly-veiled swipe SH-Y launched at Facebook and Google in that regard? It’s like she’s saying, “The gall of them! They don’t pay taxes, and yet they tell us how to run our country!” Absolutely brilliant of her — she’s a brilliant wordsmith, and knows how to read the room. Love her.

  9. Andrew J. Smith

    Thinly veiled and badly planned attempt at gouging led by NewsCorp; what is the linkage between any potential funds from Google/Facebook and quality journalism (versus media groups simply increasing company revenue)?

    Me thinks like the EU, some robust legislation/regulation round (all) digital on privacy, marketing, financial trasnfers/tax etc. and anti-competitive practice that all would adhere to, including NewsCorp, 9 Fairfax and Seven (and other sectors).

  10. wam

    A lovely read, There are so many things that show the machinations of the diludbansimkims to be hypocritically pragmatic with the political hessian behind the glossy linoleum policies. Shutting up Shy was one of the worst but she is like the ‘gauls’ indomitable and bounced back. Google is bluffing, there are heaps of search engines: “Gibiru is the preferred Search Engine for Patriots.” OneSearch, No cookie tracking, retargeting, or personal profiling. No sharing of personal data with advertisers. No storing of user search history. Ekoru is taking on the ever-present threat of climate change by donating 60% of its monthly revenue to one of several partner charities, ranging from those focusing on reforestation and climate action to those who are dedicated to animal welfare and conservation. Unbiased, unfiltered search results. on the same page is Ecosia: Looking to save the planet, one tree at a time? Then check out this environmentally friendly search engine!
    ps I like shy even more as she annoy’s the shit out of rabbottians

  11. Brozza

    Bugger farcebook and goggle.
    If they’re making money here but not paying any taxes, then they deserve no voice.
    On the other hand, I don’t want to see money diverted to newscorpse or the msm if no journalistic integrity is applied either.
    The ‘Brave’ browser and duck,duckgo search engine both work fine.

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