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‘We don’t respond to threats’ Australian PM fires back at Google over warning to disable search engine

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pushed back against a threat by Google to stop making its search engine available in Australia if it is forced to pay news outlets for showing links to their websites and stories under a new media code.

“Let me be clear, Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia, that’s done in our Parliament, the Prime Minister said.

“It’s done by our government and that’s how things work here in Australia, and people who want to work with that, in Australia, you’re very welcome, but we don’t respond to threats.

The comments come after Google insisted during a parliamentary inquiry that it would stop making its search engine available in Australia if the federal government proceeded with its planned digital media code.

The code would see digital giants such as Google and Facebook pay local media companies for providing their content in search and sharing their content on social media.

Managing director of Google in Australia and New Zealand, Mel Silva told a parliamentary hearing into the proposed scheme that it was unworkable and untenable for them.

“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to search and coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk, she said.

“If this version of the code were to become law it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.

“This is our worst-case scenario, we do not want to be in this situation, we would love to get to an outcome where there is a workable outcome for all parties.

Ms Silva said the company was willing to strike deals with news publishers to direct users to their content and had already made similar arrangements around the world.

“There is, however, a workable solution for Google where we would pay publishers for value, they would create and curate content and panels that would exist across several Google services, she said.

“These are deals that have been done all around the world, 450 so far.

Google is currently doing an experiment on its Australian users where it hides news sites from its search results.

The media giant has tweaked its search algorithm for about 1 per cent of its users which means links to some news sites are buried, a move that some believe is a response to the Australian government trying to make it pay for news content.

Ms Silva said the experiment had several arms and would not confirm which news outlets.

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