Tech platforms such as Google and Facebook are fighting a proposed Australian law that will force them to remunerate Australian news media companies.
The Australian government introduced the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code in December 2020 after more than three years of extensive public consultation in order to “address the bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and digital platforms.” The Code is aimed at sustaining public interest journalism in Australia and ensuring that news media companies are remunerated for the content they create. While it will initially apply only to the Facebook News Feed and Google Search, it can include other digital platform services in the future if there is sufficient evidence that they give rise to a bargaining power imbalance. The Code encourages parties to undertake commercial negotiations, enables the tech platforms to publish standard offers, establishes a framework to negotiate in good faith, and sets clear and workable minimum standards for tech platforms.
In response to the law, Facebook said:
Australia is proposing legislation to govern the relationship between Facebook and news publishers that misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and ignores important facts about the value publishers receive from Facebook. Assuming this draft legislation 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.
Google, while threatening to disable its search engine in Australia, said:
The Code was originally designed to support the financial future of publishers—an important goal which we’ve committed to support. But the way it tries to achieve this would break the way Google Search works. The Code would force Google to pay for links to certain publishers, despite the value they already receive in free user traffic from Google. This code creates an unreasonable and unmanageable financial and operational risk to our business. If the Code were to become law in its current form, we would have no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.
During a press conference at Brisbane on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that the country “do[esn’t] respond to threats,” referring to Google’s statement.