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Google Hits Back At ACCC

ACCC’s plan to introduce an algorithm regulator has been slammed by Google Australia’s managing director, stating it risks “poor outcomes”.

In a blog post, Mel Silva, MD of Google Australia and New Zealand, responded to the ACCC’s preliminary report on Digital Platforms released in December 2019.

The ACCC’s proposed regulator would force tech giants, like Facebook and Google, to reveal their secret algorithms to provide transparency regarding how news stories are ranked.

Silva dismissed the proposal, which is supported by media organisations including News Corp, as it could “risk poor outcomes” and she believes Google is already open about its ranking process.

“We already provide extensive guidance on search ranking, including our 164-page Search quality rater guidelines, and the How Search Works guide. And of course, Google Search results are open for all to see.

“We believe this approach balances the need for transparency against the risk of manipulation by bad actors and do not believe that an algorithm regulator would lead to higher quality search results or promote journalism.”

Managing Director of Google Australia and New Zealand, Mel Silva.

Her statement mirrors the response of Facebook VP of APAC Policy, Simon Milner, who claims there’s little evidence to support why an algorithm regulator is necessary.

Silva has called on the ACCC to reexamine the advertising industry’s dynamics as she states that Google is far from a monopoly as it competes with other digital platforms and channels.

“From an advertising perspective, search advertising is just one of many channels advertisers invest in and we compete directly for advertising dollars with other digital channels, as well as television, print, radio and outdoor advertising.”

Digital media provides advertisers with data to “measure the impact of their ad spend” she says, and other media channels are “catching up”, but this is not examined in the report she argues.

“We believe there should be further consideration of the competition Google faces for user queries on search and the competition for advertising investment, both among digital providers (of which search advertising is only one part) and other forms of advertising.”

She also states that Google should be considered in a different like to social media sites like Facebook.

“Google News has no ads, nor does the news results tab on the search page,” Ms Silva said.

“Unlike social media sites, which operate in largely closed environ­ments and benefit from users spending more time on the site, the success of Google Search ­relies on linking users with relevant results. This is an important distinction, highlighting the need to differentiate between digital platforms.”

Silva does support the ACCC’s proposals to improve consumer privacy protections but stated they should apply to all industry organisations.

“The preliminary report proposes a range of measures to enhance privacy and consumers’ awareness of data collection and use. We believe these changes should apply to all organisations currently subject to the privacy act, not just digital platforms or organisations that meet a particular threshold.”

ACCC boss Rod Sims is scheduled to release the final Digital Platforms report in June 2019.

Read Silva’s full statement here.

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