If you're an Australian Facebook user who likes to share the news on your timeline, you may have noticed something else lately: you can't.
Australia is about to pass a law called the News media and digital platforms Mandatory negotiation code, which would force Facebook and Google to pay publishers when they host their content. The law is a response to years of complaints from news outlets around the world about the role Google and Facebook – and their giant digital ad companies – have played in the decline of journalism and the decimation of the business model in the Internet age. The two companies have responded in different ways: Google makes deals with Australian news publishers; Facebook cuts them off completely
Reasoning that the law does not apply to it as long as news links cannot be shared on its platform, Facebook has banned all users from sharing links to Australian news sources; The pages of Australian publications do not host their own content at all; and Australian users not to share news links at all, Australian or international.
Facebook also seems to be blocking anything it thinks is an Australian news source – whatever currently contains various sites that are definitely not news broadcasts. For example, there were reports that government pages were being restricted. (Also, cycle paths
However, the overzealous prohibition was apparently deliberate and perhaps even a little punitive.
"Since the law does not provide clear guidelines for the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition to respect the law as it is drafted," Facebook told Recode. However, we will reverse pages that are accidentally affected.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Facebook's move would only make his government more determined to pass the bill – and could encourage a few other governments to do something similar.
"Facebook's actions to detach Australia today by shutting down vital health and emergency information services were as arrogant as it was disappointing," Morrison wrote in a Facebook post"These actions will only confirm the concerns an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behavior of BigTech companies that believe they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them."
He added, "We will not be intimidated by BigTech trying to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important news media negotiating code."
The law that Facebook hates, but Google learns (and pays) to live with
The proposed law – which is probably assumed – says that digital platforms like Facebook and Google should pay news organizations if their content appears on those platforms, such as in Google search results or Facebook shares. Google and Facebook are the only two companies currently under the law, but it could also apply to other government-designated digital platforms. The platforms and the publishers have to come to a payment agreement or else they go for an arbitrator who sets a fair price for them to pay, otherwise hefty fines will be imposed.
Google and Facebook, which dominate a digital advertising company paying them billions of dollars while news organizations go bankrupt, are vehemently against the law. Both in recent months to have endangered to take their services from Australians if it were to succeed.
Ultimately, Google blinked. The search giant has already started to work out payment agreements with Australian publications. On Wednesday, it announced a deal with Rupert Murdoch & # 39; s News Corp. Murdoch, Australia's extraordinarily wealthy and powerful news mogul and native son of Australia, has been very vocal about the desire for a law to force digital platforms to pay for his publications, may have the decision of the country to go ahead with this law.
News Corp now has one multi-year deal with google. The terms were not disclosed, but the New York Times reported it was worth tens of millions of dollars. Google has also struck a deal with Australia Seven West Media and made an agreement to work out licensing agreements with French publications, as France considers a similar law.
Facebook clearly took a different tack. If Australians can't share news links and Australian news organizations can't post their own content, then Facebook believes Australian law doesn't apply – after all, there's nothing to pay media companies for. But there is also no law yet. Facebook cut Australian news outlets before it was really necessary, giving them, their government and their readers a taste of what's to come once the media bill is passed. Facebook may hope that a preview of the platform without Australian news will make lawmakers more susceptible to passing any version of the law that Facebook favors.
Facebook may be on the right here, depending on who you believe
While some have welcomed Australia's move, reasoning that anything that prompts technology companies to pay back news organizations for the content (or advertising dollars) they've used to build their own platforms, others media analysts believe that the law is a matter in which the government forces companies to pay other companies – especially those that are owned by one of the wealthiest and most influential (former) citizens of that government. What was well-intentioned may only make the rich people richer, with little benefit to anyone else.
Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis the law called a case of "media blackmail" and said Google had "given in" to "the devil Murdoch." Facebook, on the other hand, "stood on principle" or simply decided that news content was not worth enough to Australian users for the company to pay for it.
Facebook said Wednesday that it doesn't think the law "recognizes the reality of how our services work." The social network believes that it is actually the publishers who benefit from Facebook, not the other way around.
“Last year, Facebook generated about 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers with an estimated worth of AU $ 407 million,” said Facebook (take those numbers, which have not been independently verified, with a very large grain of saltAnd Facebook apparently hardly needs news articles, which the company says "makes up less than four percent of the content people see in their news feed." That could be because Facebook has, during the past years, intentionally less emphasis on news links in news feeds in favor of messages from friends and family, and deleted the box & # 39; Trending & # 39; with links to news articles.
In fact, Facebook said it lets news organizations use its services for free by posting links to their articles for Facebook users, who then click those links and generate valuable traffic for news organizations. What Facebook didn't say was that this traffic isn't worth nearly as much to those publishers as it could be, because Facebook and Google control most of the digital ad market and make the most money from it, rather than the outlets. whose content these ads are placed on. That's why Australia wants to force them to pay those publishers fairly in the first place.
Facebook claims it is not against paying news organizations and it had wanted to launch in Australia Facebook News, a platform on which the company would pay publishers to buy licenses for their content, as it already does in the United States and the United Kingdom. Those deals would, of course, be on Facebook's terms. The company doesn't like to be regulated so Australia is cut off before it can be.