The ACCC this afternoon issued a stern rebuke to claims made by Google today regarding the News Media Bargaining Code, accusing the search and advertising giant of spreading misinformation about the incoming regulation.

Google Australia managing director, Mel Silva, this morning published an open letter denouncing the News Media Bargaining Code, currently under public consultation and expected to be introduced to parliament next month.

Silva labelled the new rules – which seek to establish a bargaining mechanism for Australian publishers to seek and receive payment from Google and Facebook for the use of their news content  – as “unfair” and said they would lead to “dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube”.

Silva also suggested under the code Google could be required to share user data with publishers and the tech giant’s “free” services could be at risk in Australia. A link to the letter was added to the popular Google Australia search page, ensuring it would be seen widely.

Google is including a warning notice about proposed regulation in Australia on its search page.

This afternoon the ACCC, which developed the code following a landmark inquiry into the impact of digital platforms, accused Google of spreading misinformation about the News Media Bargaining Code.

“The open letter published by Google today contains misinformation about the draft news media bargaining code which the ACCC would like to address,” an ACCC statement says.

“Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so.

“Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.

“The draft code will allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services.”

Analysis of the code by UNSW Associate Professor Rob Nichols made a similar finding: Google would not have to surrender any actual user data.

“There will be an obligation on Google and Facebook to give businesses clear information about the nature and availability of user data collected through users’ interactions with the news,” Nicholls wrote in The Conversation last month when the code was revealed.

“This does not mean Google or Facebook must share the data itself — only that news businesses will be informed of what kind of data are being collected.”

Public consultation on the code closes August 28th.

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