The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released additional information on its inquiry into the impact of digital platforms on media publishers and their advertising revenue during the final weeks of preparing a preliminary report that could change the direction of search.
Last year Google sent more than 2 billion visitors from its search engine to Australian news websites.
In December 2017, the ACCC was asked to analyze the way major digital platforms impact media, journalism, and advertising. But the ACCC seems most concerned with Google and its business practices, and how fake news stories could divert advertising away from true, traditional media.
News Corp, for example, had proposed the introduction of a review panel to the Australian government would be intended to scrutinize algorithms used by digital platforms.
Google, of course, disagreed with the idea, telling the ACCC that “mandating disclosure of Google’s algorithms would conflict with long-standing legal protections for trade secrets and other intellectual property." The letter went on to say that search engines are not news publishers and there is a potential for an algorithm review board to expose the search engine, and for it to be manipulated by thieves wanting to game the system, per Google.
In the letter dated October 19, Google said it provides just enough information about how its algorithms work. The company strives to provide the correct balance between providing transparency about how Search works while protecting intellectual property and specific details.
Google also notes in the letter that the company cannot serve as a fact-checker for every news article on the Internet. Its search engine has identified more than 130 trillion web addresses. Hundreds of new web pages published are every second and Google Search receives trillions of search queries each year.
And while Google’s algorithms determine the order in which links to news sites are served, the company does not manually curate news articles.
Google suggests that even if the company could verify the accuracy of news publishers’ content, requiring it to do so could create a number of undesirable outcomes. First, the publishers’ judgment about the content of their articles would be subject to second-guessing by Google and if Google refused to link to certain articles for fear of liability it could be viewed as a form of censorship.
“Calls for increased regulation in this space have failed to address these complex issues, and have provided no evidence to demonstrate that the proposals would benefit users, advertisers, publishers, digital platforms, or societal debates,” per the letter.