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15 January 2021
Google experiments with burying commercial news
Google has taken the extraordinary step of trialling the suppression of search results that link to commercial news outlets, part of a campaign against the proposed News Media Bargaining Code, as the search giant claims the draft law will undermine the service it provides.
Why it matters: In a situation in which Google is arguing that Australia should not legislate to let commercial publishers bargain collectively with platform companies, flexing its singular power over them is a strange move, given that it goes a long way in showing why publishers have a case for levelling the playing field.
Reporting in the Australian Financial Review found that for some users commercial news sites like The Guardian and The Australian were affected for a small fraction of search users.
State-owned ABC appears to have been unaffected.
Google, noting that it runs “tens of thousands” of experiments each year, said that it is committed to finding a “workable” code.
The reason for the experiments is to “measure the impacts of news businesses and Google search on each other”.
It also pointed out the value it provides to publishers, which can also be read as the publisher revenues that Google effectively controls.
The code is currently under a Senate committee review.