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Africa Blog

Google News Initiative

Google’s remarks at the MDPMI public hearing

Before we get started with the presentations we thought it would be useful to give you the overall picture of where we are coming from.

We support the objectives of this inquiry and very much appreciate the invitation to participate. We have heard the submissions over the past few days are not naive about the opportunities and also the challenges that the shift online creates for the news industry and journalism. Monetising news in the online environment; shifts in consumer behaviour; advertisers’ vast choice in where they place their ads online and technologies developing very, very quickly. This requires constant innovation. This is a complex environment for all parties to operate in that requires constant adaptation.

Where do we stand? We build our products to surface a diverse array of reliable information, including news to our users. This drives traffic to news publishers. This is at the heart of the product design -the constant effort to look for reliability signals, fight misinformation.

Search and Discover are not news aggregators. Search provides links in response to people’s queries, Discover based on user interest, and both directs users to the original sources on publisher websites. And news is a relatively small part of the vast volume of the content people engage with via Search and Discover.

We also invest through product and program partnerships to share and encourage innovation. This includes our efforts through the Google News Initiative and through numerous bespoke joint initiatives - like the coalition of news publishers, broadcasters and civil society to fight misinformation around the elections globally, and in the South African elections via our partnership with Africa Check. In fact Google is the one of leading private funders of journalism globally. We have a deep respect for the difficult and important work of journalists.

But we do not think that the answer lies in short term, transactional solutions. All stakeholders (including governments by the way) need to work together. We have seen some proposals from other countries which create unworkable operating frameworks - they would impose uncapped financial and legal liability on platforms. This is simply not commercially viable. We have seen other companies choose not to participate as a result. In many of these cases we have seen over-inflated estimates of the value of news to Google’s business that inevitably undermines efforts to find long term outcomes. Indeed at the same time we have, over the last few years, learnt more about the commercial realities of news with regard to Google’s business.

This Commission has said it is looking for a solution for South Africa rather than a copy-paste solution. We agree. This requires a full collaboration with government, business, publishers, platforms- all of us. Once again, we recognize the challenges to the sustainability of the news ecosystem and remain committed to continuing to work with the South African news industry.