Google says if the ACCC plans to ‘directly intervene’ with the Android operating system it should do the same with Apple and Microsoft

In its response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Digital Platforms Report, Google Australia’s managing director Melanie Silva has said that if Google’s Android operating system is under the magnifying glass, so too should Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows PC operating system.

The response from Silva, posted on the Google Australia Blog, also said that the recommendations from the ACCC don’t take into account the value that Google provides publishers and existing commercial agreements between the tech giant and Australian news producers.

Google claims its benefits to publishers outweigh any negatives

Broadly, Silva said Google supports the 23 recommendations laid out in the final report, which was handed down in July after an 18-month investigation. Silva said both Google and the ACCC share overarching hopes to promote public interest journalism and improve digital literacy in the country.

“Google is broadly supportive of many of the Final Report’s 23 recommendations, but some require further analysis on the associated costs and benefits. Two recommendations are of particular concern, specifically changes to Android defaults and aspects of the proposed publisher code,” reads Silva’s blog.

“Firstly, the recommendation to directly intervene in the Android operating system does not take into account Australian market conditions and competition laws, and provides no justification for focusing on Android when Apple’s iOS is the most-used mobile operating system in Australia (as noted in the Final Report) and Microsoft’s Windows remains the most-used PC-based operating system.

“Secondly, the proposal for regulator-sanctioned negotiation of revenue sharing between platforms and news publishers – as part of the code contemplated by Recommendation seven – overlooks existing commercial arrangements between Google and Australian news publishers and the broader value that Google provides through referred web traffic and technology.”

Silva said that, in 2018, Google delivered more than two billion clicks to Australian news publishers from users in Australia and another billion from global users. She also referenced the Google News Initiative which supports development and innovation among publishers of all sizes, and the recent Google ranking changes which will allegedly support original reporting, although as Google never releases the complete details of its algorithm changes, it’s not entirely clear whether this will have the desired effect.

Google’s response follows on from Facebook, the other big tech company targeted in the ACCC’s final report, which said earlier this week that the analysis in the report is ‘speculative’ and that local publishers in fact benefit from Facebook’s terms, contrary to what the ACCC has claimed.

The final report provided no consistent and clear evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the tech giants, claims Facebook, and therefore the social media giant is requesting corrections to the final report to reflect this.

Google and Facebook were targeted in the report as the two biggest tech companies in Australia

For the most part, media bosses welcomed the report, its findings and recommendations, despite the fact the ACCC failed to recommend any concrete actions to change the balance of power in the publishing industry as was initially requested by some of the companies.

Silva said the overwhelming benefit Google brings to Australian consumers and businesses cannot be underplayed and that Australia should ‘consider its place in the global digital economy’.

“Technology has provided significant opportunities for Australian consumers and businesses. And the potential upside is huge – research suggests that Australia stands to gain $1.2 trillion in economic benefit between 2015 and 2030 if it can successfully drive investment in productivity-enhancing technology,” said Silva.

“In Australia, Alphabeta estimated that to date in 2019, Google Search, grants from Google to the non-profit sector, and Google advertising tools have helped connect more than 1.1 million businesses, website publishers, and non-profits to consumers globally. The benefits realised by businesses using Google’s platforms enabled them to support up to 116,200 jobs in Australia, two-thirds in small and medium-sized businesses.

“Google’s technology helps Australians find information and create content. More than one hour of Australian content is uploaded to YouTube every minute and, on an average night, Google Search and other Google tools like YouTube help Australian students research answers to 25 million homework questions.”

Google in fact already polices the balance of power, claims Silva, because the company can only be successful if the interests of users, publishers and advertisers are all unified.

Google welcomes further consultation with the ACCC and engagement with the Government and industry in the coming weeks, concluded Silva.

A response from the government is due to be handed down by the end of the year.


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