Google is threatening to block its search engine in Australia if the government proceeds with a new code, which would force Google and Facebook to pay domestic media companies for the right to use their content.
Mel Silva, the managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand says: “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.”
Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was quick to respond.
“Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our parliament. It’s done by our government. And that’s how things work here in Australia. And people who want to work with that, in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats.”
Google’s threat escalates a battle with publishers including News Corp that’s being closely watched around the world.
The search giant says 19 million Australian users would have worse YouTube and search experiences if the new code is enforced.
Google doesn’t disclose sales from Australia, but search ads make up most of its revenue and profit globally.
This week, the United States asked Australia to scrap the proposed laws—which have broad political support—and suggested Australia should pursue a voluntary code instead.
Australia says Google and Facebook hold too much market power in the media industry, and that it’s a potential threat to democracy.