Feb 16, 2021 - Economy

Microsoft weighs in on looming news battle in Australia

a windows symbol with an army hat over it

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Australian lawmakers say Google and Facebook are getting closer to striking payout deals with publishers in the region.

Why it matters: If they can strike those deals, Google and Facebook will avoid a law that would make Australia the first country to force both companies to pay news publishers for their content.

Be smart: If the law — which is being reviewed by Parliament this week — passes, both tech giants have threatened to pull some of their services from the country.

  • Facebook says it would block users from sharing news links in Australia.
  • Google says it would stop making Google Search available in the country.

Yes, but: A new wrinkle in the debate has pushed Google to address the threat more aggressively. Microsoft came out swinging against Google last week, saying it backed the Australian code and that similar measures should be passed in the U.S.

  • Microsoft has much to gain in backing the law. If Google does pull search from the country, it could make Microsoft's Bing search engine a more viable competitor for Google.

The bottom line: Microsoft and Google, longtime peaceful competitors, have turned on each other in what has recently become one of the most important battles over the future of news.

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