Google is investing $ 740 million in Australia following calls for more regulation

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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

Bloomberg / Getty

Google has had a controversial relationship with the Australian government in 2021 with the Silicon Valley giant at one point threatens to pull Google Search out of the country. A much more conciliatory note was struck on Monday night (Tuesday morning, Australian time) when Google announced it would invest $ 740 million (AU $ 1 billion) in Australia’s digital infrastructure over the next five years.

“We want to help Australia shape the next wave of innovations,” Sundar Pichai said in a pre-recorded video statement announcing the investment. He said the money would go to further develop Australia’s cloud infrastructure, to create Google’s first research hub Down Under and to establish local partnerships that tackle local and global issues such as clean energy production and to find ways to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke at Google’s offices in Sydney, calling it a “one billion dollar declaration of confidence in Australia’s digital economy strategy.” The strategy he is referring to is a $ 880 million (AU $ 1.2 billion) initiative launched by his government in May to invest in artificial intelligence, quantum computers, blockchain and other technologies.

It’s the latest twist in Australia’s turbulent 2021 with American tech titans. In January, as Australia’s parliament worked on a bill that would force Google and Facebook to pay for media publications whose content fills out Google searches and appears on Facebook feeds, Google threatened to pull its search platform completely out of Australia. Cooler heads eventually won (though Facebook blocked Australian news for a few days), the aforementioned media law became a law and Google has the page made big money deals to pay Australian media companies.

“I especially appreciate the approach that Google has taken to address some difficult issues,” Morrison said Monday, referring to his government’s spearhead with the technology giant earlier this year. “But we sat down, we have worked through them and I think we have got the right result for both the citizens of Australia and for the technological future that we both want to embrace.”

Although Prime Minister Morrison smiled at Google’s Australian headquarters on Monday, confrontations with Google may not be entirely past.

Australia’s competition watchdog, which has long called for the news media bill that eventually became law, once again has Google at its crossroads. In September, it released a report saying that Google had used its dominance in adtech – where Google earns most of its money – to harm competition in the industry, and advised on heavier regulation. Google denies the allegations, saying their adtech services support small businesses and create jobs.

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