Clash of the tech titans: it's now Google Vs Microsoft

Google slams Microsoft for its stance over media payments, accuses it of "distraction" tactics

MUMBAI: Google’s Global Affairs senior VP Kent Walker has lashed out at software giant Microsoft in a blog post, accusing it of “reverting to its familiar playbook of attacking rivals” and “lobbying for regulations that benefit their own interests”.

This was after his counterpart Microsoft President Brad Smith dissed Google’s business policies while testifying before the United States congressional subcommittee hearing on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law. Microsoft later also published the transcript of Smith's testimony on its blog titled ‘Technology and the Free Press: The Need for Healthy Journalism in a Healthy Democracy’, where he blamed Google's business model for "devouring" ad revenue on which news groups rely.

The heated war of words between the two conglomerates comes after Microsoft backed legislation that could force big tech companies in the US like Google and Facebook to pay to feature news on their platforms. Google and Facebook have resisted mandatory payments, while Microsoft has taken a more collaborative stance, even going so far as to lobby for other countries to follow Australia's lead in calling for news outlets to be paid for their online content. A move opposed by both the tech companies.

The software giant took on the search engine leader head on in its blog while talking about the accelerating crisis in news and journalism, that reflected the shift away from traditional advertising  to digital advertising, enabled by the emergence of the internet. It goes on to say, “While Google and Facebook have gained the most revenue from the shift to digital advertising, Google in multiple ways is unique. Google has been the biggest winner, capturing about a third of all digital advertising revenue in US in the last year.”

It further adds, “Google’s full impact, however, is based not on its large numbers but its multiple roles. Google accesses and uses news in a way that is different from Facebook. More important, it is the dominant technology firm in virtually every corner of the digital advertising ecosystem. Google’s digital advertising business encompasses the entire internet. It enables Google to aggregate the content of others, attract users, harvest their data, and then directly target them with ads at an unprecedented scale.”

Only stopping short of suggesting that it has “unlawfully” built up its business, it concludes by saying, “Google’s business model is fed by the very content that these ailing news organisations create.”

Google, on its part, has launched a scathing counter-attack saying it was “no coincidence” that Microsoft’s interest in attacking the tech company came “at a moment when they’ve allowed tens of thousands of their customers-  including government agencies in the US, NATO allies, banks, non-profits, telecommunications providers, public utilities, police, fire and rescue units, hospitals and, presumably, news organisations - to be actively hacked via major Microsoft vulnerabilities.” This was in reference to the SolarWinds Hack ransomware attack, which has left several companies reeling across the world.

The search engine colossus further states, “This important debate should be about the substance of the issue, and not derailed by naked corporate opportunism”, while also declaring Microsoft’s claims about Google’s business and how it work with news publishers are “just plain wrong”. It concludes by saying, “Microsoft’s attempts at distraction aside, we’ll continue to collaborate with news organisations and policymakers around the world to enable a strong future for journalism. “

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