Australia is due to pass laws that would force both Google and Facebook to negotiate payments with local publishers and broadcasters for content. If they can’t strike a deal, a government-appointed arbitrator would decide the price.
On Friday, Google said that it would disable its search function if the laws came to fruition.
“The code’s arbitration model with bias criteria presents an unmanageable financial and operational risk for Google,” Mel Silva, managing director for Australia and New Zealand, told a senate committee.
“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.”
Facebook has similarly labelled the code “unworkable” in its current form and said it would cause the social media platform to stop publishing Australian news.
“The great majority of people who are using Facebook would continue to be able to do so, but we would no longer be able to provide news,” Facebook’s Simon Milner told the hearing.
Google’s Mel Silva said that withdrawing its services from Australia was the “last thing” Google wanted to happen and insisted there was a “clear pathway to a fair and workable code”.
However, Australian PM Scott Morrison said lawmakers would not be bullied by the tech giants. “People who want to work with that in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats,” Morrison told reporters.