Australia passes bill requiring Google, Facebook to pay for news after negotiations with Big Tech

Australia passes bill requiring Google, Facebook to pay for news after negotiations with Big Tech
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The Australian government has passed a law that requires Google and Facebook to pay for linking to news websites. The controversial law will take some time to take effect, as the Big Tech companies strike deals with the media. 

The Associated Press reports the parliament passed the final amendments to the News Media Bargaining Code on Thursday, which were agreed upon between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday.

Changes made to the law have provided Facebook with an incentive to lift a ban on Australians accessing and sharing news on its platform. 

The amended code, drafted by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims, said that he was happy to address the market imbalance between Australian news publishers and the two largest sites on the internet. 

“All signs are good,” Sims said, according to the AP. “The purpose of the code is to address the market power that clearly Google and Facebook have. Google and Facebook need media, but they don’t need any particular media company, and that meant media companies couldn’t do commercial deals.”

Thanks to the changes, the rest of the law can now be implemented. Google has agreed to work with Australian news publishers, including News Corp. and Seven West Media. Frydenberg says that he was happy to see Google, and more recently, Facebook, make progress in establishing commercial deals with Australian publishers.

While News Corp. and Seven West Media represent a large portion of the Australian news media in urban centers, Country Press Australia, which represents 161 regional newspapers in the country, has raised concerns that smaller publications are missing out. 

The AP reports that Sims said he was not surprised that the tech giants would strike deals with large city publishers first. 

“I don’t see any reason why anybody should doubt that all journalism will benefit,” Sims said. “These things take time. Google and Facebook don’t have unlimited resources to go around talking to everybody. I think this has got a long way to play out.” 

According to the AP, the Australian legislation was designed to provide Australian news publishers with leverage in their deals with Facebook and Google, which maintain a duopoly on online news. 

“The digital giants would not be able to abuse their positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Instead, in the case of a standoff, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning offer,” the AP states. 

However, Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said that without the amendments, media conglomerates in Australia would have been able to “demand a blank check.” 

“Thankfully, after further discussion, the Australian government has agreed to changes that mean fair negotiations are encouraged without the looming threat of heavy-handed and unpredictable arbitration,” said Clegg, who was formerly the deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom.

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