Google executives defend public interest behind Sky News ban at media diversity hearing

This morning saw the media diversity in Australia senate committee hearing reconvene, after today’s session was postponed last month, following a snap lockdown in the nation’s capital.

The focus of the first session was on Google’s and YouTube’s policies regarding misinformation and disinformation, in relation to Sky News Australia’s seven day ban from the platform last month.

This saw Google’s director of public policy for Australia and New Zealand, Lucinda Longcroft and Samantha Yorke, senior manager, government affairs and public policy, Australia and New Zealand appeared before the committee, taking questions from committee chair, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, along with a Labor Senator Kim Carr, Country Liberal Party Senator Sam McMahon and Liberal Party Senator Gerrard Rennick.

Google’s Lucinda Longcroft

Longcroft affirmed to the committee that Google’s policies aim to strike a balance between providing the greatest amount of information available while also ensuring safety to the community, stating that YouTube is not an ‘anything goes’ platform.

She also clarified that subsequent to the publisher’s ban from the platform, 23 videos in total were removed for breaching its COVID-19 misinformation policies.

Following the ban, and removal of content, Longcroft said that Sky News Australia did not appeal any of the decisions, nor did it receive any official complaint, however it did raise concerns over YouTube’s policy.

Longcroft said that following the initial ban, only then did Google receive communications from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Longcroft said that the company has worked closely with the regulator on developing the disinformation ‘code of practise’, which is a voluntary code, in order to protect users and fight misinformation.

Committee chair Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Longcroft also told the committee that over the course of the pandemic, it has provided the Department of Health with $4.8 million in free advertising, in order to provide authoritative public health information.

Also appearing in today’s programming is Sky News Australia CEO, Paul Whittaker, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, ACMA chair Nerida O’Laughlin and Crenia Chapman, ACMA deputy chair and CEO.

A Sky News presenter panel featuring Alan Jones, Rowan Dean and Rita Panahi was understood to also be appearing before the committee, and featured in the running order for last month’s sitting, before it was postponed the day prior, however they backed out on Friday, as reported by Mumbrella, providing no specific reason.

News Corp co-chair Lachlan Murdoch was also invited by Senator Hanson-Young to appear as a witness however declined the invitation.


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