Australia unleashes the first great battle between media and technology
The Australians who entered their Facebook profile this Thursday were informatively left in the dark after the company fulfilled its threat to block local or international media content to its millions of users in the country. The blackout also affected those who consult the social network from outside Australia, who no longer receive information from the media of the oceanic country, according to the AFP agency.
The decision represents a qualitative leap in the pulse that publishers and large technology companies have faced for a decade and which, until now, has developed more in the field of threats than facts. The media consider that Google or Facebook take advantage of the work of content creators without providing them any remuneration, while snatching most of the advertising pie. Google and Facebook claim that thanks to them the number of readers has multiplied.
The company’s maneuver responds to the bill introduced by the Scott Morrison government, which is being debated in the Senate and which seeks that Facebook and Alphabet – Google’s parent company – pay publishers for links to their news on these platforms . Some pages linked to the Department of Health and others of Emergencies, as well as some charities, were also blocked, although Facebook later rectified and left them operational again.
Facebook’s response contrasts with that of Google, which hours earlier had announced that it would pay News Corp, Rupert Murdoch’s empire, for the next three years for the material distributed by many of the headlines of his empire. Among them, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch and The New York Post in the United States; The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun in the UK; and other publications in Australia such as The Australian, Sky News and news.com.au. The deal could signify a new rapprochement between Canberra and the Mountain View firm and comes after the search giant agreed to shell out € 63 million to 121 newspaper publishers in France, according to Reuters.
In a reflection posted precisely on Facebook, the Australian Prime Minister classified the blockade as “arrogant”, while warning of the attitude that characterizes some of the big technology companies. “These actions confirm the concerns that a large number of countries are expressing in reference to the behavior of big tech, that they believe they are more important than the rulers and that they consider that the laws are not made for them to comply with. They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t give them the right to run it, ”Morrison hung up. “We will not allow them to intimidate us or pressure our Parliament, now that the draft on the canon relating to news in digital format is being voted on. In the same way that we did not give in when Amazon threatened to leave the country, “added the head of government.
“Companies operating in Australia have a duty to comply with the laws passed by Parliament,” said Paul Fletcher, Minister of Communications. His Finance counterpart, Josh Frydenberg, called Facebook’s strategy “useless and authoritarian” and damaging to its image.
The bill has been under discussion for almost a year. Promoted by the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC), it aims to force the two major platforms to negotiate a price for their content with publishers. According to the Australian bill, the price to pay would not only depend on the negotiating capacity of each medium with Google or Facebook, but would go to external arbitration if there was no agreement.
Facebook, for its part, affirms that the new bill is based on an erroneous basis, since the media themselves are the first interested in projecting their content there, since thanks to their power of dissemination they can reach more people. “Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook does not steal news content. The media choose to post their notes on Facebook because they find new readers, get subscribers and improve their income. News organizations would not use Facebook if it did not contribute to their profitability, “William Easton, Facebook’s manager in Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement on Wednesday. According to Facebook, Australian publishers were able to raise around € 261 million from mentions on Zuckerberg’s platform.
The Facebook blackout in Australia has a remote precedent in Spain. In 2014, Google kicked the media out of its Google News platform in response to the intellectual property law that required aggregators to pay for indexed information. In the medium term, the measure did not affect the traffic of newspapers, which remained on Google, but outside of the aforementioned tool.