Facebook has said it will stop users in Australia from sharing news on the social network if a proposed law from the country’s competition regulator comes into force that would require it to pay local media companies for their content (via CNET).
The threat comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) submitted a draft regulatory code that would “address the bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and digital platforms” and allow Australian news publications to “negotiate for fair payment for their journalist’s work.”
If the proposed regulation becomes law, technology companies like Facebook and Google will have three months to negotiate with Australian media organisations.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Facebook Australia and New Zealand’s managing director Will Easton pushed back against the draft regulation, claiming that the code “misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect.”
Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram. This is not our first choice – it is our last. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector.
The ACCC presumes that Facebook benefits most in its relationship with publishers, when in fact the reverse is true. News represents a fraction of what people see in their News Feed and is not a significant source of revenue for us. Still, we recognize that news provides a vitally important role in society and democracy, which is why we offer free tools and training to help media companies reach an audience many times larger than they have previously.
In a statement given to CNET, ACCC Chair Rod Sims said Facebook’s threat was “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,” said Sims.
“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.”
In a move possibly related to the ACCC’s draft code, Facebook has sent a notification to all users, explaining that its terms of service will be updated from October 1 to allow it to remove or restrict access to any content it thinks could cause the social media company legal problems.
Google also opposes the draft regulation, and sent an open letter to the ACCC claiming that it would put the free services that it offers users at risk. The ACCC responded by saying the letter “contains misinformation” and said that “a healthy news media sector is essential to a well-functioning democracy.” It also noted that charging users is not a requirement of the draft regulation, and if Google chose to go down that route, it would be Google’s choice alone.
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