Social media giant Facebook has come out against proposed Australian media laws, issuing a statement today via its newsroom threatening to remove all instances of news appearing on its social media platforms in Australia if the country passes the recently drafted legislation.
The proposed News Media Bargaining Code aims to make Facebook and Google pay for the news content that they benefit from by distributing, in an attempt to share the revenue more evenly between the tech giants and the Australian media if the latter's content is shared on their platforms.
Google has recently taken a similar stance against the draft law, targeting Australian internet users with warnings about claimed 'dangers' to Google services if the legislation is passed. Those alerts have appeared on the main Google search homepage, as well as across YouTube. The company also published a dedicated blog post on the matter.
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Following Google's lead, Facebook has now made its own case, saying that the new regulation “misunderstands the dynamics of the internet” and that “assuming the draft code becomes law, [it] will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram”.
Facebook’s threat here is a fairly large deal for Australian citizens and potentially has wider reaching implications for the world, particularly in a climate where social media platforms are trying to portray themselves as a balanced source of current affairs.
A large part of the argument from both Facebook and Google is that they claim the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) – the consumer watchdog behind the proposed code – has misunderstood the relationship that news media has with social media, particularly that the former is helped by the latter, rather than the other way around.
This means that both tech companies are against the notion of needing to arbitrate the balance of the financial benefits received by both news media and social media.
Other changes proposed in the draft would include forcing both Google and Facebook to provide details about changes in their algorithms to news publishers, a point which both tech titans claim will provide unfair advantages to certain news outlets and therefore upset the country’s balance within the media landscape.
In both Google and Facebook’s posts, the companies do concede that they support the notion behind the draft law – to help support struggling news outlets – but the tech giants are unhappy with how the drafted code proposes to do so.
Update: ACCC responds to Facebook
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has responded to Facebook's post with the following short statement:
Facebook’s threat today to prevent any sharing of news on its services in Australia is ill-timed and misconceived.
The draft media bargaining code aims to ensure Australian news businesses, including independent, community and regional media, can get a seat at the table for fair negotiations with Facebook and Google.
Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses.
While the consumer watchdog is clearly standing by its proposed legislation, the draft code must still be finalised and then, ultimately, passed by the Australian government to become law – so expect to hear more in the coming weeks.