Shreyas Kulkarni
Media

Oz wants tech companies to pay for news; Google relents, Facebook does not

FB has restricted Aussies from sharing and viewing news links while Google has signed a deal with Oz’s biggest media company News Corp.

Facebook on Wednesday (17 February 2021) announced it has restricted Australians from sharing and viewing news links on its platform and people around the world will not be able to see any news links from Australian publishers.

This announcement was a reaction to the Australian government’s proposed law that would make tech companies pay for news.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter,” said William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand in a blog post on the social media website.

Facebook’s reaction involves not just links from news publishers but also essential services.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted the Australian Prime Minister:

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

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

They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they should run it.

We will not be intimidated by this act of bullying by BigTech, seeking to pressure parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code.

I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues. We simply won’t be intimidated, just as we weren’t when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.

I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian government, as Google recently demonstrated in good faith.”

Alphabet Inc’s Google had earlier threatened to pull its search engine from the country as a response to the proposed law. Instead, it on Wednesday declared a deal with Oz’s biggest publisher News Corp.

“… historic multi-year partnership with Google to provide trusted journalism from its news sites around the world in return for significant payments by Google,” said News Corp in a press release.

It went on to say, “The landmark three-year agreement also includes the development of a subscription platform, the sharing of ad revenue via Google’s ad technology services, the cultivation of audio journalism and meaningful investments in innovative video journalism by YouTube.”

Among the News Corp publications joining Google News Showcase will be The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch, and the New York Post; in the UK: The Times and The Sunday Times, and The Sun; and in Australia a range of news platforms, including The Australian, news.com.au, Sky News, and multiple metropolitan and local titles.

But, what is interesting to note here is the deal is not for news published on Google’s general search but a separate product called Google News Showcase where publishers are compensated for particular news stories they wish to see on this product.