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Australian leader has'constructive' talk with Google boss

The Australian prime minister said he had a"constructive" meeting on Thursday with the mind of Google following the technology giant threatened to remove its search engine from Australia over strategies to make electronic platforms cover news.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also welcomed the aid of Google rival Microsoft, which has touted Australia's proposed legislation that would make Google and Facebook pay as an example for the rest of the world.

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, pioneered the online meeting with Morrison to discuss the draft laws which were introduced to Parliament in December.

"I believed it was a constructive meeting," Morrison said. "I believe I've been in a position to send them the very best possible signals which should give them a fantastic encouragement to interact with the procedure."

Google regional director Mel Silva told a Senate hearing last month that the business would probably make its own search engine unavailable in Australia if the so-called News Media Bargaining Code compelled Google and Facebook to cover for Australian information.

Google hasn't clarified how Australians would be excluded or from what solutions.

A Senate committee will report on the government on its review of the draft laws on Feb. 12.

Morrison said he had been apparent with Pichai who"Australia sets the rules for how these things function."

"We discussed a few of the specifics of components of this code and they raised those matters, I think, very hastily," Morrison said. "But I believe we have managed to get this into a much more positive space about the capacity to continue to offer services here in Australia."

Google declined to comment on the meeting.

While Google and Facebook have condemned the legislation as unworkable, Microsoft President Brad Smith stated his business would be willing to cover information if its search engine increased Australian market share.

The legislation would initially only apply to Google and Facebook, but the government could add other platforms in the future if Google left Australia.

Though Bing is Australia's second most popular search engine, it has only a 3.6% market share. Google says it's 95%.

Smith said Microsoft would invest in Bing in Australia to increase its quality so it would be on par with Google as it had been in North America and Britain.

"This is a chance, whether individuals use Bing or not, to set a stake in the ground to encourage the importance of news and publishing and reevaluate what's... a true imbalance, state, involving search and technology and standard news," Smith told Australian Broadcasting Corp..

"We applaud the government for taking this type of step. I believe that it's needed, not only in Australia but in other places too," he added.

Technology has been having two"negative consequences on the health of democracy" -- spreading disinformation and sapping the financial base of information media, he explained.

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