Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that the government is in talks with software giant Microsoft to use their Bing search engine as a replacement for Google, which has threatened to withdraw its services from the country. Australia's new media legislation would make Google and other tech giants liable to pay money to smaller publishers and broadcasters who drive traffic to their sites.
"We just want the rules in the digital world to be the same that exist in the real world, in the physical world," Morrison said. He also revealed that Microsoft was "pretty confident" that something would be worked out when he spoke to reporters in Canberra on Monday. No official confirmation has been received from Microsoft.
The proposed new law emerged after an investigation revealed that Facebook and Google held too much market influence. Google managing director for Australia and New Zealand called the move an "unmanageable financial and operational risk" which the company was unwilling to take, leaving them with no option but to withdraw Google search services from the country.
This was criticised as "a pattern of threatening behaviour" by Peter Less, director for the Australia Institute Center for Responsible Technology, who also said that such threats posed a measurable threat to democracy. PM Morrison also condemned the move, insisting that the tech giant would have to follow Australian laws to operate in the country.
Google has already been forced to compromise with the L'Alliance de la Presse d'Information Générale (APIG) publisher's association over rights to reuse snippets of their content. This move came after a French competition watchdog condemned Google's practice of removing news to avoid paying publishers for their content which was deemed an abuse of their dominant market position.