The Associated Press24 Feb 2021 09:47:19 IST
Facebook has announced that it will lift the ban on Australians viewing and sharing information on its platform after reaching an agreement with the government on a bill that would force digital giants to pay for journalism. The social media company sounded the alarm with its sudden decision last week to block news on its platform across Australia after the House of Representatives passed the bill. Initially, the blackout also reduced access – at least temporarily – to government pandemic, public health and emergency services, fueling outrage.
Facebook’s cooperation is a major victory in Australia’s efforts to make two great gateways to the internet, Google and Facebook, pay for the journalism they use – a confrontation that governments and tech companies around the world whole have been closely watched. Google had also threatened to remove its search functions from Australia because of the proposed law, but that threat has subsided.
“There is no doubt that Australia has been a proxy battle for the world,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
“Facebook and Google have made no secret of the fact that they know the eyes of the world are on Australia, and that is why they have sought to get code here that is workable,” he said. added, referring to the bill, the News Media Trading Code.
In fact, this week Microsoft and four European publishing groups announced that they would work together to push for Australian-style rules for news payments from tech platforms.
The legislation was designed to limit the inordinate bargaining power of Facebook and Google in their negotiations with Australian news providers. The digital giants could not abuse their positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news companies for their journalism. Instead, in the event of a stalemate, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning bid.
(Also read: Facebook and Google diverge sharply in response to Australia’s new media laws)
Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that both sides agreed to amendments to the proposed legislation. The changes would give digital platforms one month’s notice before they are officially designated under the code. This would give those involved more time to negotiate agreements before being forced to enter into binding arbitration agreements.
A statement released Tuesday by Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president for press partnerships, added that the deal allows the company to choose which publishers it will support, including small local publishers.
“We are restoring the news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. Going forward, the government has made it clear that we will retain the ability to decide whether news appears on Facebook so that we are not automatically forced into negotiation, ”Brown said.
Frydenberg described the agreed changes as “clarifications” of the government’s intention. He said his negotiations with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg were “difficult.”
A lobbying group of European publishers who are among those teaming up with Microsoft said the deal shows such legislation is possible – and not just in Australia.
“The latest twist proves that regulation is working,” said Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers Council. “Regulators around the world will be reassured that they can continue to draw inspiration from the Australian government’s resolve to resist unacceptable threats from powerful trade gatekeepers.”
Facebook said it will now negotiate deals with Australian publishers.
“We are pleased that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our primary concerns about authorizing trade deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers versus the value that we’re getting out of it, ”William, regional manager of Facebook Says Easton.
“As a result of these changes, we can now work to increase our investment in public service journalism and restore the news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days,” Easton added.
Google, meanwhile, has signed content licensing agreements with Australia’s largest media companies through its News Showcase. The platform claims to have made deals with over 50 Australian titles and over 500 publishers worldwide using the model, which launched in October.
Peter Lewis, director of the Center for Responsible Technology at the Australian Institute, a think tank, said in a statement that “the amendments preserve the integrity of the media code.”
However, others have taken a more skeptical stance. Jeff Jarvis, a journalism expert from the City University of New York, said media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who owns most of Australia’s major newspapers through his American company News Corp., is the biggest winner, while smaller titles and new media startups would suffer the most.
Jarvis said Murdoch’s media empire was the driving force behind Australian legislation, which he said included a requirement for media companies to earn at least A $ 150,000 ($ 119,000) in revenue to be eligible. .
“So a startup that has no revenue has no real recourse,” Jarvis said, adding that while Facebook and Google open payment talks with small businesses, “it’s clear that a plus a small actor has less influence than a bigger actor, than a News Corp. “
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