Google: Microsoft’s interest in publishing debate is “naked corporate opportunism”

Microsoft President Brad Smith was on Capitol Hill on Friday, ostensibly to discuss legislation that would give publishers more bargaining power against online platforms. From Google’s perspective, however, Microsoft is simply “dusting off the old diversionary Scroogled playbook.”

Smith appeared before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subpanel to endorse the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, a bipartisan bill that aligns with the long-simmering anti-tech climate in Washington. In his prepared testimony, Smith took on Google’s power in the digital ad market and its impact on the news industry. “Google has effectively transformed itself into the ‘front page’ for news, owning the reader relationship and relegating news content on their properties to a commodity input,” Smith said. 

Google fired back, charging that Microsoft is simply seizing the opportunity to attack its longtime competitor while distracting from its own problems, like the the SolarWinds attack and the widely-exploited Exchange vulnerabilities.

“This important debate should be about the substance of the issue, and not derailed by naked corporate opportunism,” Google SVP of Global Affairs Kent Walker wrote in a blog post

Leaders at Microsoft, he went on to say, are “now making self-serving claims and are even willing to break the way the open web works in an effort to undercut a rival.”

The legislative debate follows a similar saga in Australia, where Google and Facebook opposed the new News Media Bargaining Code. Google initially threatened to pull its search engine over the law but has since has signed a number of deals with media organizations in Australia. Facebook made good on its own threat to block Australian news on its platform but struck a deal with the government to bring the news back.

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