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, which WARC wrote about recently, is currently under a Senate committee review.
  • In a blog post released earlier this week, Google Australia outlined some of its objections to the proposals – and those of other companies in agreement – with arguments ranging from providing special treatment to one kind of content business, hurting the internet’s neutrality, and further impacting media diversity in the country.

Bottom line:

“What these experiments in Australia have actually proved, in reality, is that Google has inordinate power: it can disappear news and news content entirely if it wants to” – Belinda Barnet, senior lecturer in media and communications at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, writing in the Guardian.

Sourced from Australian Financial Review, WARC, Google, The Guardian