February 21, 2023
JAKARTA – Recently there has been a lot of discussion in the media about the potential regulation of the relationship between technology companies and the news industry, which has raised a number of questions and concerns.
We do not believe that the choice for Indonesia is between regulation and no regulation. Rather, it is about designing regulations that can work for all Indonesians and we welcome the opportunity to participate in the discussion.
During the National Press Day event in Medan, North Sumatra, earlier this month, we shared how we work with news publishers to help them transform and grow online. We also recently announced that we would deepen our commitment to fighting misinformation, and are building on our existing work with news publishers in Indonesia.
With the right regulatory framework, we believe that there is more we can do together in partnership to increase and support quality journalism by improving access to training and launching our content licensing program in partnership with some of Indonesia’s most respected local, regional and national publications.
We invest in our partnerships with the Indonesian news industry because we believe there are benefits for everyone – journalists and publishers, users and Google.
Overly prescriptive or one-sided regulations can hamper companies’ ability to operate our services effectively for everyone. The following are some of the key principles for creating an effective regulatory framework in Indonesia.
First, it starts with an understanding of how Google works with Indonesian news publishers.
We provide significant value and funding to news organizations, including by sending valuable traffic to news publishers’ websites 24 billion times each month around the world for free. This traffic gives news publishers the opportunity to generate advertising revenues from those audiences and convert them into paying subscribers.
There are a number of untrue statements out there about the value of news to Google. We do not run ads on Google News or the news results tab on Google Search. We do not make any money from users clicking on results for news articles and do not sell the content of news publications. Users go to Google to search for many things, and news is only a small part of the variety of content that we present.
Second, put the needs of Indonesian users first.
We are concerned that several of the proposals discussed recently may have a significant negative impact on Indonesian users. Google’s focus is on providing users with the most relevant results in response to their queries, including for news and protecting user privacy. Any regulation must ensure that:
- User data is protected: regulation needs to protect users’ privacy and not mandate the distribution of users’ personal data to a third party.
- The playing field for ranking remains fair: providing more information to news businesses on how our algorithms work would only give them an unfair advantage over every other website owner, and potentially make it harder for people to find the best results for their queries. It also opens the door for people to try to manipulate or game our systems: sharing these details could enable malicious actors, risk cyberattacks, expose users’ private data and could infringe on intellectual property rights.
- Content moderation complies with existing regulations: Indonesia has robust content moderation regulations in place. Further regulation is not only unnecessary, but its execution would also be burdensome for the news industry and platforms.
Third, create certainty. While we understand much is still being discussed, it is essential that regulation allows all affected businesses to operate with operational, legal and commercial clarity. Critical elements of any regulation should be clearly defined as a matter of law and not left to be determined by the implementing authority. This should be clearly articulated during the consultation and legislative process.
Fourth, independent oversight. If the government plans on introducing regulation, we strongly encourage the establishment of an independent body, operating at arms-length from both news publishers and digital platforms, to ensure its integrity.
This creates the opportunity for a robust debate that considers both the views of institutions designed to protect journalists and promote the viability of domestic news with the digital realities of Indonesian users and the global nature of technology.
We also need to ensure that any proposed dispute resolution process is appropriate, measured and fair to both parties. It is critical to resolve ambiguities at this stage of the process to ensure that Google and other potentially impacted digital service providers can provide a holistic, considered perspective on the expected impact on our products and users.
Fifth, regulation should apply equally and allow for exemption for digital platforms. When it comes to which digital platform services should be made subject to any proposed regulation, it is important that the industry has both certainty and confidence in how those decisions are made. We believe any objective criteria, such as “significance” or traffic thresholds, should be set out in law and equally apply to domestic and international service providers.
We strongly encourage the establishment of a clear exemption process whereby the independent administering authority can assess the contributions made by a digital platform and decide to exempt it from the provisions/application of the regulation. Not recognizing these contributions may disincentivize proactive efforts by platforms to engage with news publishers and create uncertainty around existing initiatives and investments in Indonesia.
Sixth, support original Indonesian news content. Workable regulation requires clear and reasonable eligibility standards and criteria for the verification and inclusion of Indonesian news publishers under this regulation. It is important to ensure that only publishers whose core focus is original news content are eligible to be included.
With these principles in mind, there are proposals in the current debate that work against the desired outcome of building a sustainable future for news online — a goal we share with the government and the publishers and journalists we work with every day.
There is ample room for debate and nuance on these topics. We will continue discussions with the industry and the government to share our concerns with the proposed approach and highlight potential implications for the way our products work in Indonesia.
We believe a more equitable and collaborative approach would help to promote a sustainable future for public-interest journalism and look forward to working together toward this shared goal.
The writer is director of government affairs and public policy, Google Indonesia.