Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has demanded Google pay up for original content rather than blocking it after revelations the tech giant had prevented Australian users from accessing news websites.

Google confirmed it had sporadically hidden news sites from a small number of Australian users as part of an "experiment … to measure the impacts of news businesses and Google Search on each other".

The test, which used algorithms to bury news content, affected about 1 per cent of users and would end early next month, it said.

The federal government is locked in a battle with tech giants after proposing world-leading regulation that would force digital giants Google and Facebook to pay for original news content.

Josh Frydenberg has told Google to pay up for news content Picture: NCA NewsWire/ David Crosling
Josh Frydenberg has told Google to pay up for news content Picture: NCA NewsWire/ David Crosling

Speaking after the latest revelations, Mr Frydenberg demanded tech giants prioritise giving Australian media companies fair compensation for news they produce.

"Google, Facebook and other digital giants should focus not on blocking users in Australia accessing domestic content, but they should focus on paying for it," he said on Thursday.

"The digital giants should focus on paying for original content, not blocking it.

"(It) is a world-leading scheme that we're putting in place. It has been acknowledged, not just by regulatory agencies but by other governments around the world."

Google is locked in a battle with the federal government over its bid to force tech giants to pay for news content. Picture: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg
Google is locked in a battle with the federal government over its bid to force tech giants to pay for news content. Picture: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg

Mr Frydenberg said the government's proposal, which was before a senate committee, would be a "very significant advance" for domestic media businesses already squeezed by shrinking revenue.

Google rejected the government's bargaining code in December despite being offered compromises after consultation.

It said it remained committed to thrashing out a payment framework but claimed the draft legislation "still fell short of a workable code".

Facebook previously threatened to ban Australian users from sharing news content over the plan.

Under the legislation, an independent umpire would choose between offers put forward by each side on how much would be paid for content.

The government also agreed to include the ABC and SBS as part of the code following pressure from the Greens.

Originally published as 'Pay up': Treasurer's message to Google


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