Business Insider reports that the Silicon Valley tech giant Google is facing major criticism after it was revealed that the company removed some local news content from its search results in Australia as part of an “experiment.” Critics have called the situation a “chilling illustration” of the power that Google holds over the internet.
The incident is the latest in an ongoing battle between Google and the Australian government, which is currently considering a proposal that would force tech firms such as Google and Facebook to pay local news providers for their content.
Google added a notice to its site last year after the law was proposed, warning that “the way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk.” The Silicon Valley giant said on Wednesday that it had been “running a few experiments that will each reach about 1% of Google Search users in Australia.”
The Australian Financial Review first reported that Google had tweaked its algorithm to bury links from major Australian news providers. Google confirmed the tweak and downplayed it, adding that it conducts “tens of thousands of experiments” every year.
Nine, the publisher behind the Sydney Morning Herald, told the Guardian in a statement: “Google is an effective monopoly and by withholding access to such timely, accurate and important information they show clearly how they impact what access Australians have to that. At the same time, Google are now demonstrating how easily they can make Australian news providers who fall out of their favour effectively disappear from the internet – a chilling illustration of their extraordinary market power.”
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters: “The digital giants should focus on paying for original content, not blocking it. That’s my message to those digital giants. We have again introduced legislation that’s now before a Senate committee to put in place a world-leading mandatory code to see those digital giants pay traditional news media businesses a fair sum of money for generating original content.”
A company spokesperson commented: “Every year we conduct tens of thousands of experiments in Google Search. We’re currently running a few experiments that will each reach about 1% of Google Search users in Australia to measure the impacts of news businesses and Google Search on each other. In 2018, the value we provided to publishers through referral traffic alone was estimated at $218 million dollars.”
Google reportedly plans to end the experiment in February.
Sources: Breitbart: Google ‘Experiment’ Hid Some News Sources from Consumers