SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook said on Monday it would reinstate sharing and viewing of news links in Australia after having more time to negotiate a proposed law requiring it to pay for news content ie appear on its page.
Social media blocked news links in Australia last week when a new law was about to pass. The law includes a code of conduct that allows media companies to personally or collectively agree with digital platforms about the value of their news content.
Facebook has strongly opposed the code, which will limit their authority and increase spending on content, and set a precedent for other governments to follow suit. The company had argued that the news would not have complicated value in Australia if the bill became law.
But on Monday, Facebook was back at the negotiating table after the Australian government made a few small concessions. According to some modifications to the rule, Facebook will have more time to cut deals with publishers, so it won’t be forced to make immediate payments according to media companies regulations. . The revisions also suggest that if digital platforms voluntarily contribute enough money to the Australian news industry, companies can avoid the code entirely, at least for now.
In return, Facebook agreed to restore news and article links for Australian users “in the coming days”, according to a statement from Josh Frydenberg, Australian treasurer and Paul Fletcher, communications minister, infrastructure, city and art.
Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships, said in a statement that the social network is restoring news in Australia because “the government has made it clear that we will keep the ability to decide. whether the news appears on Facebook so we won’t automatically be subject to a mandatory negotiation. “
The amendments provide a relief to both Facebook and the Australian government, which has been stuck with the proposed law for months. Those tensions came to the fore last week when Facebook cut its domestic news sharing, causing disruption and embarrassment for millions of Australians.
Links to articles were blocked, along with Facebook pages for Australian government agencies, health and emergency services. Users become annoyed when a series of false or misleading pages fill information gaps, spreading bogus theories about the dangers of 5G wireless technology, and false claims about Covid-19 vaccination.
“In just a few days, we’ve seen a loss in the news could cause it, ”said Sree Sreenivasan, professor at Stony Brook School of Journalism and Communication. “Misinformation and misinformation, already an issue on the platform, have urgently filled the void.”
The dispute between Australia and Facebook dates back to when the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission, the country’s leading competition authority, began drafting a bill last year. Australian officials say the bill’s primary goal is to facilitate transactions between platforms and publishers, which have been inconsistent for years over the value of the press and whether the other party should pay. to the other party or not.
Google and Facebook, which are used to the majority of not paying for news content, both disagree with the proposed law. In August, Facebook said it would block Australian users and news organizations from sharing local and international news stories on its social networks and Instagram if the bill goes ahead. Last month, Google also threatened to stop offering its search engine in Australia if the government approved the law.
But in recent weeks, Google has started dealing with media companies like Reuters, The Financial Times and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
In contrast, Facebook is stubbornly against the proposed law. This is because the code contains terms such as “final arbitrator”, which will give an independent arbitrator the right to price the news content if the publisher and digital platform are unable to agree to pay.
Facebook has repeatedly argued that this law undoes value proposition because it has said that this law provides value to news publishers by sending traffic to media sites, then can make money from advertising.
But advocates of the law have said that the ultimate referee – used for contract disputes between players and the Major League Baseball in the United States – provides the necessary leverage when one party is powerful enough to Avoid bargaining if they choose.
“It’s important and still a mandatory arbitration clause,” said Johan Lidberg, professor of communications at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “That must be maintained; without it, the code would have no teeth. “
The proposed law also opens up the potential for a long queue of publishers to request payment. Any news publisher with annual revenues of more than AU $ 150,000 could seek to sign up as a code participant, giving the possibility of forcing a company like Facebook to enter negotiations.
The law also gives great discretion to the federal treasurer. Mr. Frydenberg will have the power to specify which companies must negotiate according to the rules of the law, and decide which media companies can apply. Facebook and Google have aimed to avoid that designation.
With the new revisions, Australian officials appear to have given Facebook more time to execute the types of transactions Google has delivered, while continuing to hold the final referee’s hammer over the head of the company. Facebook thinks it can still remove news from its platform to avoid a deal.
In its statement, the government argued that the modifications would enhance the power of regional and small publishers to receive appropriate remuneration for using their content on technical platforms. number.
But if the government agrees not to let Facebook be subject to this code because it has completed enough deals with the major media companies, smaller publishers could be disqualified.
Marcus Strom, president of the Australian Association of Journalists said: “For small publishers and freelance journalists who have relied on Facebook to distribute their news, it would be a relief to see the news tap already. bounce back, ”said Marcus Strom, president of Australia’s Association of Journalists. “But they will still suffer the mercy of Facebook and Google, both of which are looking to avoid mandatory regulations and will instead choose the media company with which they sign the deal.”
Mike Isaac reports from San Francisco, and Hang Damien from Sydney, Australia.