Google has targeted its top YouTube stars with yellow warning signs online, with claims they could “earn less” and it may have “fewer funds to invest” in them.
Google has targeted its top YouTube stars with yellow warning signs online, with claims they could “earn less” and it may have “fewer funds to invest” in them.

Google threatens Aussies’ income

Google is targeting its top YouTube stars with warnings they could "earn less" and the trillion-dollar firm may have "fewer funds to invest" in them if changes to make the company pay for the news it uses in Australia go ahead.

But experts branded the messages as "misinformation" and a "desperate attempt" to rally support for the company, as YouTube is not mentioned in the proposed laws and would not be subject to revenue-sharing changes in the proposal from Australia's competition watchdog.

Google's new messages come days after the tech giant kicked off an aggressive online campaign against the Australian laws, advertising an "open letter" to millions of users on its Australian search page, and warning the reform would "hurt the Google you use every day".

In the new emails, Google told YouTube users the legal changes would give news organisations information they could use to game rankings, meaning "you could receive fewer views and earn less".

Google also appeared to cry poor, warning that Australian news outlets could "demand large amounts of money above and beyond what they earn on the platform, leaving fewer funds to invest in you, our creators".

The company also issued a video message from YouTube Creator liaison Matt Koval, who said the video-sharing platform would have to change its Australian operations and encouraged users to share how the laws could "negatively impact" them with the Government.

"As it stands, if this becomes law, we wouldn't be able to operate in Australia in our current form," he said. "We'd have to make major changes to YouTube. But, again, we don't want it to get to that point."

But Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims referred back to comments he made about Google's open letter earlier this week, in which he said the letter contained "misinformation about the draft news media bargaining code".

Mr Sims said the code was designed to "address a significant bargaining power imbalance" between Google and Facebook and Australian news outlets, and would not require Google to "share any additional user data" or "charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube".

"We will continue to consult on the draft code with interested parties, including Google," he said.

The ACCC's draft news bargaining code recommended tech giants share revenue obtained "directly or indirectly" from news content used on their sites, and warn media companies about "significant" changes to the way their content was shown.

It does not mention YouTube as one of the platforms affected by negotiations over payment, and its current revenue arrangements would not be impacted by the proposed changes.

The legislation lists Google Discover, News, and Search as "designated digital platform services," along with Facebook's News Feed, including Groups and Pages, Facebook's forthcoming News Tab, and Instagram.


The warning given out by Google.
The warning given out by Google.


Swinburne University social media senior lecturer Dr Belinda Barnet said the messages appeared to be "complete misinformation" given YouTube was not mentioned in the code.

She said Google's new messages were an attempt to rally YouTube users to the company's cause with frightening messages that were different to the warnings they show to Google search users.

"It's threatening (YouTubers') actual income and ranking, which is important to them," Dr Barnet said. "The argument is tweaked to appeal to the worst fears of YouTube's users.

"The whole thing is a fairly desperate campaign because they have no other option. Their argument hasn't succeeded and the code is on its way to becoming mandatory."

If the code is passed, Australia could be the first country in which Google and Facebook share revenue with media organisations from the use of their content.

Dr Barnet said Google's new messages to YouTube users also made frequent references to big and powerful news companies even though the code was designed to "benefit far more than just the big players in Australia".

"This is a trillion-dollar company saying we're going to be too poor, and if this legislation goes through we're just not going to have enough money to pay you," she said. "It makes me angry that they're allowed to do this."

The ACCC will accept submissions on the news bargaining code until August 28.

Originally published as Google threatens Aussies' income