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News Corp Australia calls for Google to be broken up

News Corp Australia calls for Google to be broken up


‘Any solution must be bold’

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has called on the country’s competition regulator to break up Google, via Reuters. In an 80-page document submitted to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the media giant accused Google of abusing its market dominance in search to benefit its ad business, and it called for its search business to be separated from the rest of the company’s business units.

Echoing its earlier submission to the ACCC’s digital platforms inquiry, News Corp Australia claims that “Google has become an ‘unavoidable trading partner’ for consumers, media content providers and advertisers alike.” It says Google’s “anti-competitive” behavior threatens the sustainability of news and journalism, undermining the “virtuous cycle” of publisher’s subscription and advertising revenue.  

The ACCC’s Chairman said he was looking at the submission “with an open mind”

The ACCC’s initial proposals recommend that the Australian government set up a new regulatory body to oversee how global tech giants rank ads and news articles. News Corp Australia’s demands go further, calling for Google to either functionally separate its search business from the rest of its business units (meaning it would retain ownership but would have to operate it separately) or divest them entirely by selling parts of its business.

News Corp Australia concedes that the Australian authority is unlikely to achieve this breakup on its own, but it calls upon it to coordinate globally with other governments to achieve this aim. “Any solution must be bold,” the media giant argues, claiming that Google has previously evaded similar attempts at regulation by continuing to abuse its market position “under the guise of a different name,” despite initially seeming to change its behavior.

The publisher is not the only one who wants to break up Google. US Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is running for president in 2020, said that she would break up the big tech giants if elected. In a statement announcing the policy, she said that these companies use their market power to “squash small businesses and innovation.”

News Corp previously supported the EU taking action against Google in 2017, when the EU fined Google more than $1 billion for unfairly promoting its own price comparison services above those of its competitors. Now, searching for a product in Europe shows competing price comparison services alongside Google’s.

The ACCC’s chairman, Rob Sims, said he was looking at News Corp Australia’s submission “with an open mind.” The competition authority’s final report on its digital platforms inquiry is due to be published on June 3rd, 2019.