WHAT IS THE BILL?

The proposed law, News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020, mandates a bargaining code that aims to force Google and Facebook to compensate media companies for using their content.

The legislation sets a precedent in regulating social media across geographies, and is being closely watched the world over.

Back in 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended a voluntary code with an aim to address the negotiating skew between major digital platforms and media businesses.

Based on these recommendations, the Australian government in 2019 asked various stakeholders and the ACCC to develop this voluntary code.

The ACCC, however, pointed out in April 2020 that the businesses were not likely to reach an agreement voluntarily. The government then asked it to draft a mandatory code. The draft law was released in July, and the government subsequently introduced the Bill after carrying out some significant amendments.

The provision requiring Google and Facebook to enter into payment negotiations with media companies — with an arbiter mandated to adjudicate if no agreement is reached — or face heavy fines, has met with resistance. The arbiter is deemed important mainly for smaller publishers who may face a negotiation skew with the platforms.

In January, Google threatened to remove its search engine from Australia, and Facebook
warned it could block Australian users from posting or sharing news links. Google has now
backtracked — but the basic argument of both companies is that the media industry was
already benefiting from traffic routed to them by the digital platforms, and that the
proposed rules would expose the Internet companies to “unmanageable levels of financial and
operational risk”.

Umm, so here’s the thing. So, when you read the news these days through Facebook, Twitter or Google, you get these headlines on the news Tab in google, or you just get headlines on Facebook or Twitter, and a lot of times, you don’t end up opening
the news website, you just read the news on social media and keep scrolling.(when you do not open the news website, they cannot show you their ads, and they do not make money)(you do not type www.ndtv.com, right? You just google shit and then read
it from ndtv)(so google benefits, even if you open the ndtv website through google)

So, news companies feel that people consume news through these social media platforms, social media platforms must pay them a fee, because the platforms are using their news.(and making billions of dollars through ads)(basically shit is very skewed, and small news platforms do not make money, in spite of google using their shit)

(these social media platforms(Facebook and others), on the other hand say that billions of people are on the platforms and that a lot of those actually end up visiting the news website through social media only, so they are actually making their news popular)

(so basically the law asks FB and Google to strike a negotiation on the payment to be made to the different media portals)

LATEST NEWS (REACTIONS OF FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE)

The two companies have responded in different ways: Google is making deals
with Australian news publishers; Facebook is cutting them off entirely.

Based on reasoning that the law won’t apply to it as long as news links can’t be shared on its platform, Facebook has banned all users from sharing links to Australian news sources; Australian publications’ pages from hosting any of their own content at all; and Australian users from sharing any news links at all,
Australian or international.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Facebook’s move would only make his government more determined to pass the law — and might encourage a few other governments to do something similar.

“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Morrison wrote in a Facebook post.

“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”

He added: “We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our
Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code.”

In the end, Google blinked. The search giant has already started working out
payment deals with Australian publications.

On Wednesday, it announced a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Murdoch,
Australia’s exceedingly rich and powerful news magnate and native son, has been
very vocal about wanting a law that forces digital platforms to pay his publications,
and he may well have influenced the country’s decision to move forward with this
law.

News Corp now has a multi-year deal with Google. Terms were not disclosed, but the
New York Times reported it was worth tens of millions of dollars. Google also made a
deal with Australia’s Seven West Media and has agreed to work out licensing deals
with French publications as France considers a similar law.

Facebook, obviously, took a different tack. If Australians can’t share news links, and Australian news organizations can’t post their own content, then Facebook believes Australia’s law won’t apply to it — after all, there’s nothing to pay media companies for.
But there’s also no law in place yet. Facebook cut Australian news publications off before it really had to, which gives them, their government, and their readers a taste of what’s to come if the media law goes through. Facebook may be hoping that a preview of
the platform without Australian news will make lawmakers more amenable to passing a version of the law that Facebook prefers.

Facebook might be in the right here, depending on whom you
believe

While some have cheered Australia’s move, reasoning that anything that gets tech companies to pay news organizations back
for the content (or ad dollars) they’ve used to build their own
platforms, other media analysts believe the law is a case of the
government forcing companies to pay other companies — specifically, those owned by one of that government’s richest and most influential (former) citizens. What was well intentioned may end up only making rich people even richer, with little benefit to
anyone else.

Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis called the law a case of “media blackmail” and said Google had “caved” to “the devil Murdoch.” Facebook, on the other hand, either “stood on principle” or just decided news content for Australian users wasn’t worth enough to the company to have to pay for it.

Facebook said on Wednesday that it doesn’t think the law “recognizes the realities of how our services work.” The social network believes that it’s actually the publishers that benefit from Facebook, not the other way around.

Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free
referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407
million,” Facebook said (take those figures, which have not been
independently verified, with a very large grain of salt). And
Facebook apparently barely needs news articles, which the
company says makes up “less than four percent of the content
people see in their News Feed.” That might be because Facebook
has, in recent years, intentionally de-emphasized news links in
News Feeds in favor of posts from friends and family, and removed
the “Trending” box that featured links to news articles.

In fact, Facebook said, it lets news organizations use its services
for free, posting links to their articles for Facebook users, who
then click on those links and give those news organizations
precious traffic. 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 the majority of the digital ads market
and make most of the money from it, rather than the outlets whose
content those ads are posted on. This is why Australia wants to
force them to pay those publishers fairly in the first place.

A few other places, including France and Canada — and even the
much larger European Union — have suggested they might follow
Australia’s lead, too.

Facebook claims that it’s not opposed to paying news organizations
and had wanted to launch in Australia Facebook News, a platform
on which the company would pay publishers to license their
content, as it’s already doing in the United States and the United
Kingdom. Those deals would, of course, be on Facebook’s terms.
The company doesn’t like being regulated, so it’s cut Australia off
before it can be.

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