Why did Facebook block media news in Australia?
Facebook’s decision to remove current content from its platform in Australia is a response to legislation that would force tech giants to pay for sharing.
These are the proposed new rules, the reasons why companies like Facebook reject them, and what they can mean for users. What’s going on?
After two decades of regulations that didn’t affect them much, tech companies like Google and Facebook they are now under increased scrutiny by governments.
In Australia, regulators emphasize the control of online advertising by these companies and its impact on distressed media.
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According to the Australian competition authority, For every 100 dollars spent on online advertising, Google takes 53, Facebook 28 and the rest is distributed among others.
To make competition fairer, Australia wants Google and Facebook to pay for using expensive-to-produce informational content.
After many back and forth, the House of Representatives passed slightly modified versions of this legislative proposal, and the Senate is about to follow suit.
After Facebook decided to remove current content on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison signaled his willingness to go ahead with the legislation regardless.
Why is it attracting worldwide attention?
Although the new rules would only apply in Australia, regulators in other countries are carefully studying whether the system works and can be applied in other countries.
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Microsoft – which could gain market share with its search engine Bing – has backed the proposal and explicitly asked other countries to follow Australia’s lead, arguing that the tech sector has to step up to support independent journalism, “the heart of our democratic freedoms.”
European legislators have also spoken favorably of the Australian proposals while drafting their own legislation on the digital market in the European Union.
Facebook’s move has also raised questions about the “digital sovereignty” of countries, because some pages in the social network used to alert the population of fires, floods and other catastrophes were affected by mistake.
The company was quick to fix the bug, but the incident raises the question of whether social media should be able to unilaterally remove crisis response services.
Why are Google and Facebook opposed?
Broadly speaking, Facebook and Google oppose regulations around the world that threaten to undermine their business model that has allowed them to become some of the largest and most profitable companies in the world.
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Specifically, both claim that they have no problem paying for news and, in fact, already pay some organizations for their content. But their main objection is that they are told how much they have to pay.
In Australian regulation, an independent arbitrator could decide whether the agreements reached are fair, to ensure that technology companies do not use their advertising power to dictate terms. This goes far beyond European legislation, which encourages agreements between social networks and traditional media. Opponents argue that the new rules amount to a gift from the Conservative government of Australia to its News Corp allies – the largest media group in the country – to support its struggling newspapers.
What does it mean for users?
The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, He warned that starting to charge for links could open a Pandora’s box of monetary claims.
“Links are essential to the web,” he said during an investigation in the Australian Senate.
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“If this precedent were followed elsewhere, it could make the web unviable around the world.” Both Facebook and Google argue that the new regulation would spell the end of some of their most popular products.
But Facebook’s decision to block the news in Australia would be difficult to replicate in larger markets like the United States and Europe, as it could affect the company’s bottom line.