Facebook warned Monday that it will prevent people in Australia from sharing messages on its platform if the Australian governmentto force it and Google to pay news organizations for content shared on their platforms.
The announcement comes after the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission published its plan for a mandatory code of conduct in late July. Under the plan, news organizations can negotiate payments for their content with Google and Facebook – and if the groups can’t reach an agreement after a three-month process, “an independent arbitrator would decide which of the two offers is the final offer.” the most reasonable within 45 working days. ”
Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Facebook and Google could be forced to pay “substantial fines” of hundreds of millions of dollars if they fail to adhere to guidelines, according to the BBC.
Facebook said in a statement that the plan “misunderstands the dynamics of the Internet and is damaging the very news organizations the government is trying to protect”.
“Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will be reluctant to discourage publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” the company said. “This is not our first choice – it will be our last. But it is the only way to protect ourselves from an outcome that is contrary to logic that does not affect, but detracts from, the long-term vibrancy of the Australian news and media sector.”
Facebook also claimed that news organizations in Australia benefit more from their relationship with Facebook than the company does from sharing articles.
“In the first five months of 2020, we returned 2.3 billion clicks from the Facebook news feed to Australian news sites for free – an estimated $ 200 million worth of additional traffic for Australian publishers,” the company said.
Facebook also stressed that the rest of the social networking service in the country would remain unchanged.
In an open letter, Google Australia claimed the regulation could “result in your data being shared with major news companies”. In the letter, Google Australia also claimed, “The law would force us to give one group of companies – news media companies – an unfair advantage over anyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business.”
Under the proposal, media companies producing content that “investigates and explains issues of public concern to Australians, issues that engage Australians in public debates and influence democratic decision-making, or issues related to community and field events”, could for the negotiations come into question. Organizations must also meet “Minimum Professional Editing Standards”, maintain editorial independence, operate in Australia and generate more than A $ 150,000 per year.
The government said in July that the plan aims to address “acute bargaining power imbalances between Australian news companies and Google and Facebook”.
“News content brings significant benefits to digital platforms, well beyond the limited direct revenue from advertising a news item,” said Commission Chairman Rod Sims, in summing up the proposal. “News media companies should receive a fair amount in return for these benefits.”
Caitlin O’Kane contributed to this report.