Google’s ‘experiment’ hiding Australian news just shows its inordinate power

Jan. 14, 2021

In the midst of a global pandemic and an unprecedented misinformation glut, Google has decided to hide some Australian news sites from its search results. It is “experimenting” with the lone supply of fact-checked, accountable information Australians can access right now.

Australians have been seeing current news disappearing in recent days, replaced by old links and old news: in some cases news outlets have disappeared altogether. Google says it is displaying older or less relevant content to 1% of users.

The news comes as the debate between Australian media and “Big Tech” revs up over the proposed news media bargaining code, which would require Google to negotiate a fair price for news content with eligible Australian outlets.

Google doesn’t want to pay for news content, on anyone’s terms except its own, and it appears to be manipulating search results to avoid it.

Though Google claims the bargaining code “will break the way Google search works undermining the benefits of the internet for millions of Australians”, the search giant seems to be doing that by itself.

The code is still being debated; there is no reason that we know of why Google should be cutting or downranking news articles. There is no reason we know of to tinker with search results to avoid displaying news and falling under the code yet. Unless the tech company wants to prove a point.

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