Google’s dangerous play in the public debate

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We must pay close attention to the standoff, on the other side of the planet, between Google and the Australian authorities. For months, the government has been trying to put the search engine to the checkout. No, Google does not have the right to publish extracts from Australian media articles for free: it must pay, says Canberra, which is taking a hard line against the American multinational. And the outcome of this confrontation could have very important consequences, in the long term both for Swiss Internet users and for the Swiss media.

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Since last Friday, Google has been using a quasi-nuclear weapon against the Australian government: the capture of Internet users. When they are on the home page of the search engine, Australian Internet users see this little message displayed in front of them, in English, accompanied by an “attention” sign: “You have undoubtedly heard of a law Project. We agree to pay to help journalism. ” Right next to it is a small button with the words “Listen to our proposal”. By clicking on this link, search engine users can view a video message from Mel Silva, Google director for Australia.

The official says Google “is not against a new law, but we need a law that is fair.” The multinational prefers to pay publishers for their content via a fund called “News Showcase” rather than paying them for links displayed in search results.

We will have the opportunity, in the coming weeks, to talk about the depths of this showdown. Today, for the time being, it is the form that is extremely disturbing.

Because by thus calling its users to witness, in order to convince them that their government has a bad idea, Google is playing a strange game. It is a company in an ultra-dominant position, which can almost be assimilated to a public service, today using its clients against the authorities of a country. By wanting to interfere at this point in the democratic debate – and regardless of the accuracy or not of its opinion -, Google crosses a line. Be careful not to let this company, like other tech giants, abuse their power.