Facebook fights a battle against the Australian government and a bill on media content. Unsplash
Facebook Inc has announced that will restrict its news content to publishers and users in Australia using its platform. Facebook's blockade comes as a response to a controversial law introduced by the Australian government that would require the social network and Alphabet – Google's parent company – to pay publishers for the content that is published on their platforms.
What implications does the measure have From Facebook? According to the statement released by the company , Australian users will not be able to read or share Australian and international news content on the platform. Additionally, international readers will also not be able to view or share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news pages. Australian publishers don't have it easy either. They won't be able to share or post any content on Facebook Pages, but they will be able to access other features from their Facebook Page, including page stats and Creator Studio . Finally, international publishers will be able to publish news content on Facebook, but knowing that the Australian public will not be able to see or share links or posts.
Facebook claims that the law introduced in Australia "fails" to recognize the nature of the relationship between the platform and the media. “Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook doesn't steal news content. The media choose to post their notes on Facebook because they find new readers, get subscribers and improve their income. News organizations would not use Facebook if it did not contribute to their profitability, "protests Facebook manager for Australia and New Zealand, William Easton through a statement released this Wednesday.
But the Australian Government is not so convinced. Since last year, Australians have debated a law – promoted by the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC, for its acronym in English) – to force the two big platforms to negotiate with publishers a price for their content. Thus, Australia would force the giants Google and Facebook to pay the media to use their content on their search engines and social platforms. According to the Australian bill , the price to pay would not only depend on the negotiating capacity of each medium with Google or Facebook, but would go to external arbitration if there was no agreement . The amounts of money to be paid would set a harsh precedent for companies.
Mark Zuckerberg's company, meanwhile, assures that far from being an enemy, it has been an ally of the media. "At Facebook Journalism Project we have the resources and equipment necessary to bring innovation to the future of digital news," they suggest. In addition, the social network claims that it "helped Australian publishers" earn around A $ 407 million (261 million euros) last year through referrals on its platform.
Could Google be the next? Google has also threatened to shut down its search engine in the country to which Australia has responded with another threat . Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that Bill Gates' company "is confident it can fill the gap" if Google carries out its threat and removes its local search engine from the country. This is the search engine Bing, from Microsoft, one of Google's main competitors, although not necessarily “scary” if the figures for both services are compared: more than 19 million Australians use Google and Bing, on the other hand, has a share of 3.6% market compared to Alphabet's search engine, which has 95%.
However, a few days ago Google and News Corp – the publisher of newspapers such as The Times , The Sun , The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post – announced an agreement whereby Alphabet will pay to display their contents in the news section of the seeker. The News Corp newspapers that will receive money from Google are The Wall Street Journal , Barron’s , MarketWatch and The New York Post in the United States; The Times , The Sunday Times and The Sun in the UK; and several publications in Australia such as The Australian , Sky News and news.com.au .
The agreement between Google and News Corp could mean a new rapprochement between the search engine and the Australian Government. But it is still too early to figure it out. What is certain is that the war between media and platforms is not new —Facebook, Inc. has been “working” on this issue with the Australian Government for almost three years — and that Facebook's decision marks a before and after in this tug of war that has been heating up for six months. In September last year, both giants threatened to suppress "all news of their services", both Australian and international, if the government insisted on going ahead with the bill. Now, in February 2021, with the law introduced, Facebook will carry out its promise. It will be necessary to see if Google complies with yours.
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