The Greens want a publicly-owned search engine to replace Google

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The Greens want a publicly-owned search engine to replace Google
Sarah Hanson-Young.

Independent and accountable to the public like the ABC.

The Greens are calling for the Coalition government to investigate the establishment of a publicly-owned and independent search engine for Australia, following Google threatening to withdraw from the country.

Google and Facebook are currently locked in a bitter stoush with the Morrison government over a proposed media code that would see the online giants negotiate payment deals with news publishers.

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella has promised prime minister Scott Morrison that his company's search engine Bing can replace Google, which has a 94 percent market share in Australia.

But the Greens spokesperson for media and and communications, senator Sarah Hanson-Young rejected that, saying Australia can't be reliant on corporations to provide essential services such as access to information online.

"Currently, access to the internet is controlled by a small number of very powerful corporations," Hanson-Young said.

"We should not seek out another foreign giant to fill the gap of Google, whether it’s Microsoft or anyone else, as they will still profit off the data of Australians and be beholden to shareholder interests."

Instead, the Greens say Australia needs a search engine that's owned by and accountable to the public and not shareholders, and is independent of the government like the ABC.

Such a search engine could be set up with global best-practice data privacy standards to ensure users own their own data, and are aware of what information is collected on them and how it's used, Hanson-Young added.

General-purpose search engines that index the internet have been the domain of private enterprise, with Google estimated to hold at least 90 percent market share worldwide.

France established the Quaero search engine, which received a European Union grant in 2008, which focused on multimedia indexing and wasn't designed as direct competitor to Google and Microsoft.

Quaero was dropped in 2013, following disagreement between French engineers focused on multimedia searches, and Germans who prioritised text indexing and baulked at the project being seen as too anti-Google.

China's government merged two failed search engines into the still active ChinaSo in 2014, with state-managed censorship of results.

Russia's state-owned telco Rostelekom was ordered by the government to set up the Sputnik search engine, also in 2014.

The Sputnik project has become a "corporate browser" with search functionality, licensed by the government and featuring "Russian cryptography."

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