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Australia passes law to make Google and Facebook pay for news

February 25, 2021
Australia's parliament passed final amendments to a media law on Thursday that will force Google and Facebook to pay for news content. — Courtesy photo
Australia's parliament passed final amendments to a media law on Thursday that will force Google and Facebook to pay for news content. — Courtesy photo



BRUSSELS — Australia's parliament passed final amendments to a media law on Thursday that will force Google and Facebook to pay for news content.

The final amendments stemmed from negotiations between Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that prompted Facebook to lift a ban on sharing and accessing news content in the country.

The rest of the law was passed in parliament earlier and can now be implemented.

Google has already struck deals with major Australian news businesses in recent weeks including News Corp. and Seven West Media.

"Google and Facebook need media, but they don’t need any particular media company, and that meant media companies couldn’t do commercial deals,” said Rod Sims, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair.

Sims said he was happy the legislation would address a market imbalance between publishers and the digital giants.

Some raised concerns that tiny publications might miss out but Sims said it would take time and that it would play out for a long time.

“I don’t see any reason why anybody should doubt that all journalism will benefit,” Sims said.

The new amendments would give digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code. That would give those involved more time to broker agreements with news organizations before they are forced to enter binding arbitration arrangements.

Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said on Wednesday that the Australian law, without this week’s amendments, would have enabled media conglomerates 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,” Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister, wrote in a Facebook post.

Facebook last week prevented Australians from sharing news, but also blocked access to pandemic, public health and emergency services.

Clegg said Facebook had “erred on the side of over-enforcement” and “some content was blocked inadvertently.”

Frydenberg said his department will review the code within a year to “ensure it is delivering outcomes that are consistent with government's policy intent.” — Euro news


February 25, 2021
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