Facebook Theatens to Block Australians from Sharing News if Forced to Pay Media Companies

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23: With an image of himself on a screen in the background, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg testified about Facebook's proposed cryptocurrency …
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Facebook has promised to block Australian news publishers from sharing news on its platform if a proposed law forcing Google and Facebook to pay media companies for monetizing their content is passed.

TechDirt reports that Facebook has taken a stand against a proposed law that would force social media giants like Facebook and Google to pay for monetizing content from news publishers on their platforms. Facebook has stated that if the proposed law goes into effect, it will block Australian news publishers from sharing content on its platform altogether.

Breitbart News reported on the potential law that both Google and Facebook are facing in April. Australia plans to force Facebook and Google to pay local media firms a cut of advertising revenue for using their content on digital platforms, according to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. The move comes after talks with Facebook and Google reportedly failed to result in a voluntary code to address complaints by members of the media in Australia that tech giants have too much control over advertising, the main source of income for media companies.

Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra: “We understand the challenge that we face, this is a big mountain to climb. These are big companies that we are dealing with but there is also so much at stake, so we’re prepared for this fight.” The government has asked Australia’s competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to develop a mandatory code of conduct between media outlets and digital platforms.

The government asked the ACCC to submit a draft of its mandatory code of conduct by July to be passed into legislation shortly afterward. Frydenberg stated that the mandatory code would include the sharing of data, ranking, and display of news content and the sharing of revenue generated from news content. Frydenberg stated that a penalty would also be established and binding dispute resolution mechanisms.

In August, Google published an open letter to the Australian government, writing:

You’ve always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what’s most relevant and helpful to you. We could no longer guarantee that under this law. The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses – news media businesses – over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business. News media businesses alone would be given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else, even when someone else provides a better result. We’ve always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking. The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you.

You trust us with your data and our job is to keep it safe. Under this law, Google has to tell news media businesses “how they can gain access” to data about your use of our products. There’s no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses.

Now, Facebook has stated that it will no longer allow publishers to share news on its platform in Australia, writing:

Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram. 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.

We share the Australian Government’s goal of supporting struggling news organisations, particularly local newspapers, and have engaged extensively with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that has led the effort. But its solution is counterproductive to that goal. The proposed law is unprecedented in its reach and seeks to regulate every aspect of how tech companies do business with news publishers. Most perplexing, it would force Facebook to pay news organisations for content that the publishers voluntarily place on our platforms and at a price that ignores the financial value we bring publishers.

The ACCC presumes that Facebook benefits most in its relationship with publishers, when in fact the reverse is true. News represents a fraction of what people see in their News Feed and is not a significant source of revenue for us.

Breitbart News will continue to follow this story and update readers on any new developments.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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