As Google threatens an exit from Australia, Microsoft talks up Bing with PM

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Software giant Microsoft is confident its search product Bing can fill the gap in Australia if Alphabet pulls its Google search over required payments to media outlets, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said.

Australia has introduced laws that would force internet giant Google and social media heavyweight Facebook to negotiate payments to domestic media outlets whose content links drive traffic to their platforms.

However, the tech titans have called the laws unworkable and said last month they would withdraw key services from Australia if the regulations went ahead. Those services include Google’s search engine, which has 94% of the country’s search market, according to industry data.

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella has since spoken with Scott Morrison about the new rules, the tech company told journalists at our partner news agency Reuters, and on Monday, PM Morrison said the Washington-state based company was ready to grow the presence of its search tool Bing, the current number two player in the Australian search economy.

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“I can tell you, Microsoft’s pretty confident, when I spoke to Satya,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Canberra, without giving further detail of the conversation.

“We just want the rules in the digital world to be the same that exist in the real world, in the physical world,” Morrison added.

A Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed the discussion took place but declined to comment, because the company was not directly involved in the laws.

“We recognise the importance of a vibrant media sector and public interest journalism in a democracy and we recognise the challenges the media sector has faced over many years through changing business models and consumer preferences,” the spokeswoman said.

A Google representative was not immediately available for comment.

A day earlier, Australian treasurer Frydenberg said Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg had requested a meeting over the law, and that they had talked, but that he would not back down on the change.

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COMMENT: At present it is unlikely that Google would seek to pull its search engine from the Australian marketplace. However, if it did a window of opportunity would open up not just for Microsoft, but also for other local players. More competition would likely lead to more innovation and in-turn a better service for consumers in the country.

The actions by the Australian government are also a prime example as to how governments should tread what many in the country consider the 21st century Robber Barons. A handful of executives at a handful of companies have more perceived power than national governments.

Perhaps its time for a global approach to the potentially monopolistic practices of ‘Big Tech’ needs to be addressed for the betterment of the industry.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Translation from English to other languages via Google Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Byron Kaye. Editing by Gerry Doyle. Commentary by Rob Phillips.

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