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Google says Australian law would put search and YouTube at risk

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Google has attacked a new Australian law forcing tech giants to pay local news outlets – saying it could threaten search services in the country.

In an open letter, the firm warned that its YouTube and Search features could be “dramatically worse” if new rules were brought in.

It also added that users’ data could be shared.

But the Australian competition regulator said Google’s letter was “misinformation”.

Over the past few months, the Australian government has been preparing legislation which will make Google and Facebook pay local publishers for their content.

Today, Google has said it will fight the regulation which the government says is designed to create “a level playing field” for news outlets.

In an open letter, Google’s Australia managing director Mel Silva, wrote:

“The way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new regulation.

“You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you. We could no longer guarantee that under this law.”

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Google Search and YouTube services would be “dramatically worse” and the new regulation “could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses”, Ms Silva said.

What are the proposals?

Last month, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission published draft legislation which called on internet companies such as Facebook and Google to pay for content.

It would allow news companies to negotiate as a bloc with tech giants for content which appears in their news feeds and search results.

The draft code covers other matters too, including notifying news companies of changes to algorithms.

Penalties could be up to A$10m (£5m; $7m) per breach, or 10% of the company’s local turnover.

Today, the competition regulator said Google’s open letter “contains misinformation” about the proposed law.

“Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so,” Rod Sims, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman said in a statement.

“Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.”

Mr Sims said the new regulations would “address a significant bargaining power imbalance” between Australian news media and internet organisations.

“A healthy news media sector is essential to a well-functioning democracy,” he added.