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Australia Considers Law Requiring Sites to Pay News Outlets for Their Content

By: Justin Kresse

In the modern age, the concept of just “Googling something” has become a predominant form of gaining knowledge. Say you don’t know what an axolotl is? Just Google it! Google and other sites like Facebook have also become sources of news for many. For instance, when I first heard about the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, I Googled it, and was able to learn more by having access to a number of different articles from different media outlets. However, a new law being heavily debated in Australia would require Google and Facebook (and potentially other sites) to pay media outlets to show their news stories.

Google and Facebook are both putting up a fight against this law. Facebook said that they would potentially have to remove all sharing of news stories on the site so as not to have to pay the news outlets. Google went even farther, declaring that they might block the entire search engine from users in Australia.

Australia responded, saying that they would not be stopped by these threats. For the moment, the law would only apply to those two companies, so if Google and Facebook did go through with their plans, Australians would be free to use other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo or use a virtual private network (VPN) to mask their location and use Google from a different country.

This proposed law is not the only one of its kind, but it is the harshest one. Laws such as these create a dangerous precedent for forcing search engines to pay to show certain links. Sites like Google and Facebook are already helping bring people to the news sites. Shouldn’t they be rewarded or at least left alone for bringing these news sites viewers?

If Google has to pay to show users news stories, why shouldn’t they pay Amazon to show users the newest phone or computer that they want to buy? It’s a slippery slope and one that we may not want to go down as a society.

If Google ends up having to adapt to a system where they have to pay many websites to show their links, they will likely have to make up the funds with more ads, recording more of our data to sell, or some new and even more invasive way of selling our information.

The news media outlets appear to be scared of losing money, so they’ve lobbied for laws such as the proposed one in Australia. However, there must be a better way to maintain the open and free web while still supporting reliable journalism–which is undeniably an integral part of democracy.

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