Google’s controversial threat to pull its services from Australia has sparked calls to investigate the merits of a publicly owned search engine.
The Australian Greens have launched a bid for the federal government to establish a search engine saying the internet was an essential service.
The push follows the tech giant, Google, warning it would remove its system from Australian users in response to laws that would force social media giants to pay for news content.
“Google has enormous market power and they’re using it to threaten the Australian parliament and the Australian public,” Greens leader Adam Bandt said.
“It’s time to seriously consider what a replacement would be.”
The minor party wants the government to establish a plan for how Australians will access essential information online, if the search was made unavailable.
This would include investigating how much a publicly owned search engine, the best practice privacy provisions that could be put in place.
Mr Bandt told ABC RN that the market shouldn’t be left to fill the void because the internet should be treated as a public good.
“Everyone in this country should have a right to be able to search the internet, own their own data rather than hand it over to a corporation or to the government, and know that what they are finding on the internet isn’t what Google wants them to see but what’s actually there,” he said.
A Senate committee investigating the proposed laws on Monday heard that Google was prepared to “kill one to warn a hundred”, as the Australian push would have ramifications for the global technology giant.
The Australian Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology director Peter Lewis also warned that Australian governments and businesses had exposed themselves by relying heavily on apps such as Gmail and Google Maps.