Amid a growing discussion among people over a certain degree of control over Social Media firms, we have recently seen an unwarranted escalation between the Australian government and global Social Media Technology firms over the issue of sharing the royalties with news publishers.
The Australian government has proposed a code, which forced the Social Media giants to pay the royalty to the publishers if the “news content” is posted on their website. The government can slap the penalties as well, while it is subject to the code, it allowed news content from some publishers not part of the code while blocking others.
The new law would require Google, Twitter and Facebook to negotiate with Australian news organizations for content, with a government-appointed arbitrator making decisions if an agreement cannot be made, and made the payments accordingly.
This means social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter would not be able to just block Australian publishers who are participating in the code but would need to block all news content from their platforms.
Why Australia proposed this new code?
This new code has been designed to help the struggling local news industry, which is accusing the social media platforms of getting huge benefits from their work without paying for it. This code has been developed by Australia’s competition watchdog, the ACCC, once the talks broke down between it and the Social media giants. It has mandated the likes of Facebook, Google, and Twitter to negotiate and share the revenue they make from news content, with the local news publishers.
How Social Media Giants reacted?
Facebook and Google both argued that local news organizations are already getting huge benefits from the referrals and clicks through to their websites that their platforms enable. They accused the Australian Government of acting in a biased fashion against them.
Google announced that it will remove its search engine from the country, and Facebook also acted and said it will block Australian users from posting or sharing news links if proposed norms on royalty payments are rolled out.
Facebook did follow what it said and blocked the news content from its platform and blocked the Facebook pages of all local and global news sites. In the process, Facebook has blocked several government health and emergency pages as well. There were certain pages that were restored later as Facebook later asserted that it blocked them in error. People outside of Australia were also unable to read or access any Australian news publications on the platform.
The Australian government has strongly criticized the move, saying it has demonstrated the “immense market power of these digital social giants and any sort of ban on news information will have a huge community impact”. For our readers’ reference, there are about 17 million Australians who visit the social media site every month.
Implications of this step across the World
This showdown between the Australian Government and Social Media giants has been closely watched by regulators, governments, and digital platforms across geographies. The policymakers of several Nations are currently weighing in their options to counter the dominance of social media players such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, which are positioned in a way that service providers cannot reach customers except through these platforms.
At the same time, several Governments are also thinking of having some sort of control over these Social Media giants, as they are indeed influencing their democratic systems and processes.
This showdown will have wider implications for the regulation of digital media in the world in the longer term. A substantial discussion on the impact of intermediary platforms on the health of news media outlets is yet to commence in any meaningful way here.
Microsoft sensed the opportunity and intervened
Sensing the opportunity to capture the market, Microsoft came out in strong support of the new media law and offerred its support to provide search services if Google abandons Australia market.
Its President Brad Smith wrote: “The legislation will redress the economic imbalance between technology and journalism by mandating negotiations between these tech gatekeepers and independent news organisations.”
Australia put pressure and Social Media Giants fall in-line
The Australian government has slammed Facebook’s decision to block users in the country from all news content on its platform, a move that ended up affecting access to several government sites.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Facebook’s move “arrogant” and “disappointing,” while Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it was “wrong” and “unnecessary.”
However, once the Australian government exerted the pressure, the Social Media giants started falling in the line. Facebook announced Tuesday that it would lift a ban on Australians viewing and sharing news on its platform after it struck a deal with the government on proposed legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism.
On the other hand, Google mentioned that it is ready to negotiate individual licenses with members of a media lobby group after months of negotiations. Here it is important to note that Google has already made an agreement with French publishers and shall be paying the part of their revenue in the response to the similar law enacted by French Government.
It is an important development as we have seen watching big technology firms meddling in the USA election process, they were playing God, trying to influence voters, openly taking political sides, blocking a sitting President Donald Trump, and several other acts which are certainly suspicious. Several Nations like France and India have realized that the time has come to show these modern age fascists called big technology firms their right place, and we believe this is the first step to have a certain kind of control over them and stop their free run.