How Google Threatened To Retaliate Against Australia and How Australia Could Switch From Google Search

Executive Summary

  • Australia was the first country to stand up to Google about strip mining revenue from their media.
  • Google reacted by threatening to block Australia from using the Google search engine.

Introduction

This event is so ridiculous that it is difficult to believe what Google threatened.

Our References for This Article

If you want to see our references for this article and other related Brightwork articles, see this link.

The Request Made by the AU Government of Google

Australia is introducing a world-first law to make Google, Facebook and potentially other tech companies pay media outlets for their news content. But the US firms have fought back, warning the law would make them withdraw some of their services.

Australian PM Scott Morrison said lawmakers would not yield to “threats”. Australia is far from Google’s largest market, but the proposed news code is seen as a possible global test case for how governments could seek to regulate big tech firms.

Google Australia managing director Mel Silva told a Senate hearing on Friday that the laws were “unworkable”.

“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,” she said.

But lawmakers challenged this, accusing Google of “blackmail” and bullying Australia for raising the reform.

Mr Morrison said his government remained committed to progressing the laws through parliament this year.

“Let me be clear: Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our parliament,” he told reporters on Friday.

Google is the dominant search engine in Australia and has been described by the government as a near-essential utility, with little market competition.

The government has argued that because the tech platforms gain customers from people who want to read the news, the tech giants should pay newsrooms a “fair” amount for their journalism.

In addition, it has argued that the financial support is needed for Australia’s embattled news industry because a strong media is vital to democracy.

Australia’s news industry is struggling. Of every A$100 (£56; $77) spent on digital advertising, A$81 goes to Google and Facebook. And Covid-19 has only made this worse.

With companies reducing their digital advertising spend, a number of outlets in Australia have been forced to close.

Google, by contrast, has been performing well. Last year the social media giant made almost $4bn from Australia, while paying $45m in tax. – BBC 

This illustrates the sense of entitlement on the part of Google. Google refused to acknowledge the unfair deal they have set up for themselves vis-a-vis content producers.

Google went into thug mode and threatened AU at the slightest hint that they would have to share some of their income from content creators. This is the type of behavior that used to be more typical of Microsoft, and this illustrates that Google is becoming an increasingly corrupt company that bristles at any restriction to its business model. Google and Facebook consume the ad business, and the media entities go out of business.

And Google and Facebook do so little for the money they obtain. They are the most profitable entities anywhere, and they refuse to allow any model to be created that would provide substance for content producers.

The History and Development of Google’s Search

Google is the best-known search engine. And most people, when they search for something, use Google. However, at this point, that’s not because Google really has that much better results than other search engines. And Google now has a major disadvantage: they track your Internet usage, combine it with other things they know about you, and continually show you ads, mostly for things you have already looked up on other web pages that you visit. If you are logged into Gmail when you are searching, Google is recording everything you visit.

Google originally did have better search results than other search engines, which became prevalent. Back in the late 1990s, I recall sending out google.com to my friends and family the search engine results were so much better than anything I had used prior. Then people began to use Google, and it became the standard. However, now with search engines like DuckDuckGo and StartPage that actually provide Google results but without the tracking of Google, there are many other options that you could use for search engines, aside from Google. How much Google is surveilling you is something that we cover in the article The Real Story of Google’s Surveillance of Users.

Content Websites

Google is used to direct users primarily to content websites.

One example of this would be the New York Times. Another example would be the Washington Post. Another example would be a company’s website. For instance, like
Apple.com, or Oracle.com, or McDonald’s.com.

These are websites managed by companies that provide information to consumers about their products and their services. Companies, both through their websites and through paying media entities to carry advertisements and overall reflect their interests. Companies are the primary promoter of false information on the Internet. 

Australia’s Options for Search Engines

Australia has excellent search engine options and should not accept the requirement from Google that they must allow Google to continue to defund their media system.

Option #1: Fund Their Own Search Engine Project

Australia could easily create their own search engine that mimics Google, strips out the ads, and pushes down commercial content in the rankings. With Government funding, Australian universities could be leveraged to oversee the project and develop the code.

Option #2: Google Could Contract With A Current Search Engine Company to Modify Their Engine to be Socially Responsible for Australian Users

Such a search engine could have many advantages over Google.

Think about it. How much total garbage ranks high because commercial companies push up their results because they have the money to optimize? See this analysis for the ROI on software What Do Popular Articles on Software Leave Out on ROI?, to see how much false information is being recommended to readers by Google. Google is filled with terrible results because vendors and consulting companies dominate the search results.

On many topics, Wikipedia is normally the best source, as they are not commercial. Google has ceded the Internet to dominance by commercial firms who have shallow concern for information accuracy. And governments have allowed this by not regulating Google (and other search engines as the search results with other search engines are similar) and allowing them to profit maximizes at the expense of accuracy. 

Google’s Constantly Growing Ads Per Search Result Page

Google also now has roughly 1/2 of the page results as ads. However, Google did not start this way. This is a sign of Google’s monopoly. However, it is a monopoly based upon familiarity, not on true lock-in.

What the AU Government Should Realize About Google Search

It appears from the quotes from the AU Government don’t realize how generic Google’s search is at this point.

This is just a shortlist of the problems with Google’s search engine.

  1. Google violates the privacy of AU citizens and lies about it.
  2. How Google strip mines AU media revenues.
  3. Google’s search engine is generic at this point.
  4. Every year Google keeps worsening the deal for users.
  5. Google does not adjust the search results to reduce the dominance of commercial firms.

What About Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Docs?

It is unclear if Google threatened Australia with cutting off Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Docs.

Gmail?

Many Australians use Gmail and would be inconvenienced if they were blocked from accessing their account. Although again, there is not that much special about Gmail anymore. I use both Gmail and Fastmail and greatly prefer Fastmail. Overall the fact that so much of the world’s population uses Google for email, which means that Google can run its bots on so many emails is a problem. Gmail is a honeypot for not only Gmail but for governments that want to use it for surveillance. This same issue applies to Google search.

Google Docs?

Google Docs would be difficult to replace for those that use it. But it could be done. Some many online documents and spreadsheets are now excellent.

The article at Restore Privacy has lists of Google product replacements.

Google Maps

The most difficult item to replace that does not have a suitable replacement is Google Maps.

Therefore, of all Google’s products, the Google search engine is not only the easiest to replace, but I recommend it be replaced. I replaced it myself a little while ago because I was tired of being served ads on nearly every website I visited, and these were coming from being surveilled by Google through my use of the Google search engine. I have been using primarily DuckDuckGo, which is private and allows you to customize the look of the search engine and share those settings across multiple devices. However, I want to point out, DuckDuckGo does not do the surveillance of Google, however, they still have commercial entities dominate search results.

Conclusion

Both Australia and most other nations have many good options and many good reasons for not using Google’s search. It would be quite easy to create a Google replacement as Google does not consider rendering searchers or configuring its algorithm in a way that has any concern for information accuracy.

Secondly, there is no reason Google should dominate the advertising market when they are bringing so little to the table.

One issue with the law that Australia is thinking of passing. As large media entities in Australia promoted the law, the law would likely allow only large media entities to reap the law’s benefits. Companies like Murdoch’s NewsCorp would love to deprive smaller content creators from receiving income while complaining about how Google has cut them out of the income stream. NewsCorp will clutch their pearls at the monopolistic behavior of Google while using lobbyists to craft any law to cut smaller entities out of the loop. A law should allow the smallest content creators to receive a cut of the revenues that search engines like Google receive from ads.

A second issue is figuring out the totality of what Google is threatening.

Are they threatening to block just the Google search engine or all of Google’s products. Either way, it is more likely that Google is pulling more revenue out of Australia than providing value through their services. Google has enormous profit margins. They obtain these margins by consuming the advertising and offering back things of value, but things of lesser value than receiving in income.

This video illustrates how poorly Google compares against Duck Duck Go.

https://youtu.be/SrsCEbi5N7Y