THE NEUTRAL ZONE
Facebook will no longer permit publishers and the public to share news on its platforms in Australia if a draft regulation called the News Media Bargain Code becomes law. The regulation, drafted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, would allow media businesses “to bargain individually or collectively with Google and Facebook over payment for the inclusion of news on their services.” In addition, Facebook and Google would have to provide “advance notice” of changes to algorithmic ranking and news presentation, recognize original content, and provide information regarding how user data is collected.
Last year, the Australian commission published a report that stated there was a “bargaining power imbalance” between digital platforms and media businesses. It also detailed how the majority of Australia’s population are regular users of Google, Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram, highlighting their “substantial market power.”
In a blog post, Will Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, stated, “This is not our first choice – it is our last. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector.” He added that, in the first five months of 2020, Facebook “sent 2.3 billion clicks from Facebook’s News Feed back to Australian news websites at no charge,” traffic worth an estimated $200 million in Australian dollars.
Google stated in an open letter that the regulation “would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia.” It alleged that the proposed law would “give big media companies special treatment and to encourage them to make enormous and unreasonable demands.”
Australia Treasurer Josh Frydenberg accused Facebook of making “heavy-handed threats” in an attempt to get its way. “We won’t be bullied, no matter how big the international company is, no matter how powerful they are, no matter how valuable they are.” ACCC chair Rod Sims said, “Facebook’s threat today to prevent any sharing of news on its services in Australia is ill-timed and misconceived.”
‘Not our first choice’: Facebook threatens to block news in Australia – The Sydney Morning Herald – 9/1/2020
If the tech giant progresses with this scenario, it would mean that users and publishers cannot publish or distribute any news articles on Facebook or Instagram. Users were notified on Tuesday morning the company would update its terms of service on October 1 to allow it to “remove or restrict” access to content, services or information so it could avoid or mitigate any regulatory hurdles in Australia.
Can Australia Force Google and Facebook to Pay for News? – Wired – 8/30/2020
It’s not the first time a country has tried to force Google and Facebook to pay media companies for republishing their news. A 2014 Spanish law required publishers to charge Google for the headlines and snippets of their stories that appeared on Google News. In response, the company removed the Google News service from Spain and took Spanish publishers off its news service globally. Readership of news stories dropped, particularly at smaller, less-well-known outlets, according to one study.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg slams Facebook threats – The Australian – 9/1/2020
Josh Frydenberg has declared he won’t be intimidated by scare tactics from Facebook and Google.
Facebook Announces It Will Censor Content that Could Cause ‘Regulatory Impacts’ – Breitbart – 9/1/2020
Facebook stated that the change allows the social media giant to block individuals and publishers in Australia from sharing news, pushing back against a proposed law that would for Facebook to pay media firms for their articles. But the change isn’t specific to Australia, a company spokesperson clarified to Bloomberg that this change applies globally.