By Akanksha Sharma

Google threatens to close its search engine in Australia as it lobbies against digital news code[1]


Google is a multinational public corporation, it develops, and hosts internet based services and products throughout the world. Google is one of the biggest search engines in internet and it processes a billion searches.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google as their research project while doing their PhD at Stanford University in California in January 1996. Google is one of most dominant search engines in United States with a market share of 65%.

Internet on the other hand is used a lot nowadays. The Internet is the guiding technology of the IT Age just as the electrical engine was of the Industrial Age. As the internet is a global network of inter- linked networks that mainly provide wireless interactive communication it is used by all.

Though the internet was first deployed in 1969, it was only in the 1990s that it became available to the public. From there onwards, its use has diffused rapidly throughout the world with there being around 7 billion users of wireless devices.

Recently Google has been facing a lot of flak regarding its privacy policy in various countries. One of them is Australia. Thus, this article deals with the issues it is facing in Australia.

Google issues in Australia

The Bill that has been passed by the Australian Parliament and has now effectively become a Code is called the Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. A draft law was drawn up in July last year, and on February 25, the country passed the law.

The proposal would pass laws that would make tech giants negotiate payments with local publishers and broadcasters for content included in search results or news feeds. If they cannot strike a deal, a government- appointed arbitrator will decide the price.

Ahead of this, Google had threatened to shut down its search engine in the country while others like Microsoft had supported the move, even offered to step in to fill the void if Google were to shut its services in Australia.

As according to Tim Berners – Lee, widely regarded as the inventor of the web, the idea of asking web platforms to pay to post links runs counter to his fundamental concept.

For many Australians, Google is the internet. But in light of a proposed media code that would require the tech giant to pay local news media companies for their product, Google is threatening to end the relationship.

Google has flagged removing its search engine from Australia over the Federal Government’s proposed digital media code. Google has threatened to close its search engine in Australia- as it dials up its lobbying against draft legislation that is intended to force it to pay news publishers for reuse of their content and Facebook threatened to ban news content from its platform if government does not back down from its plans.

It is important to note that Google is not just a web search. Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc also runs key web portals such as You Tube, and productivity tools such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Maps (which actually started in Australia). Those services are not going to be removed even if web search does get pulled out.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Google accounted for 90 percent of search traffic originating from Australian desktop computer users in 2018, and a whopping 98 percent from mobile users. Google accounts for 53% of Australian online advertising revenue and Facebook for 23%.

Australia announced the legislation last month after an investigation found Google and social media giant Facebook held too much market power in the media industry, a situation it said posed a potential threat to a well- functioning democracy.

Australia’s proposed law would rather be the first of its kind, but other governments also are pressuring Google, Facebook and other internet companies to pay news outlets and other publishers for material. France is the first government to enforce the rules.

Therefore, Google and a group of French publishers have announced a framework agreement for the American company to negotiate licensing deals with individual publishers. The company has deals with outlets including the newspaper Le Monde and the weekly magazine l’Obs.

Effects of this change in Australia

Google’s agreement means a new revenue stream for news companies but would it be beneficial for readers, viewers and listeners is unclear. Australia’s proposal has critics, including some publishers, who say the Media Code could have unintended consequences.

The editorial boards have argued that news publications get more than Google and Facebook, through search engine and social media traffic, than the platforms get from the publications.

Amanda Lotz, a digital media professor at the University of Technology, points to recent research done in UK, which found that just 3% of the average person’s online time was spent reading news.

If news was somehow not available on Facebook’s feed anymore, people would still spend the same amount of time on Facebook,” she explained. “With Google, it’s exactly the same thing. Most of Google’s revenue is coming through search, and most searches have nothing to do with the news.”

Google says 2% of searches in Australia are news related.

Smaller publications have expressed concern that the Code balances power between Big Tech and Big Media, but does little for them. Last September, a group of 10 publishers wrote a statement to the ACCC outlining concerns with the Code.

If the Code becomes Law, many outlets would be too small to be eligible for payment, they said. Smaller publishers also added that they would find it more difficult to compete with Nine or News Corp if they lost the traffic Google and Facebook provided.

Now if Google’s proposal to make Google Search unavailable in Australia it means that they would need an alternative. Google is the dominant search engine in Australia – it has 94% of the web search market in Australia – but there are other search services.

The second most popular search engine in Australia is Bing, developed by Microsoft and often integrated into other Microsoft products such as its Windows operating system and Office tools. Another less popular search option is Yahoo, which also offers its own news and email service. Other alternatives include niche search engines that odffr unique tools with special features.

For example, DuckDuckGO is a search engine that has recently risen in popularity. The quality of DuckDuckGo’s search results has improved over time, and is now comparable to that of the most popular search engines.


It is true that most of Google’s revenue comes from asking other webs to pay for links on the web. But this is how Google’s online advertising works: Google Ads makes advertisers pay for all impression users get or click. In some cases, if users end up buying the advertised product, Google gets the payment.

More likely than Google pulling out of the Australian market, the government and the search giant should diplomatically find a compromise in which Google still provides its web search product in Australia and there will be a return to news organisations for Google making use of their content.


  1. Google threatens to close its search engine in Australia as it lobbies against digital news code, available at: Visited July 6th 2021)

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