Science & Technology

Facebook threatens to block news sharing in Australia

Sydney, Australia, Sep 1 (efe-epa).- Facebook on Tuesday threatened to prevent Australians from sharing news stories on its platforms, including Instagram, in retaliation to a proposed plan that would require the social media giant pay for using the content of media houses.

“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,” the company’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Will Easton, wrote in a blog post.

“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 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is preparing a mandatory code of conduct. The draft of the code was published last July and includes the payment and exchange of revenues generated by technology multinationals for the publication of local media news.

“The proposed law is unprecedented in its reach and seeks to regulate every aspect of how tech companies do business with news publishers,” Easton said.

“Most perplexing, it would force Facebook to pay news organizations for content that the publishers voluntarily place on our platforms and at a price that ignores the financial value we bring publishers.”

Before drafting the code, the Australian government late last year urged Facebook and Google to negotiate a voluntary deal with media companies to use their content. However, the negotiations failed.

The ACCC, Easton said, worked on a presumption that Facebook was benefiting the most in its relationship with publishers, “when in fact the reverse is true.”

“Over the first five months of 2020, we sent 2.3 billion clicks from Facebook’s news feed back to Australian news websites at no charge – additional traffic worth an estimated AU$200 million ($157 million) to Australian publishers.”

Easton said the proposed legislation “misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organizations the government is trying to protect.”

The Facebook threat follows Google, which has started a campaign to oppose the government plan that includes pop-up windows on Google pages warning that “searches will be affected by the new regulation.”

The ACCC dismissed the Google campaign as misinformation about the plan and stressed that the Australian media had the power to negotiate with the technology giants on payments and submit to arbitration mechanisms.

Last May, an Australian media group proposed that Facebook and Google should pay AU$386 million dollars, which represents 10 percent of the total income of these multinationals.

An ACCC inquiry last year found Google had a 96 percent market share of general search advertising revenue, and Facebook a 51 percent market share of display advertising revenue in Australia.

Facebook, the most popular social network in Australia, has 17 million monthly users in the country, which is 68 percent of its population. Instagram, the second most followed social media network and owned by Facebook, has 11 million.

Australia, like other organizations and governments around the world, is concerned about Facebook and Google attracting the bulk of digital advertising revenue in a space where the journalistic content they publish is not their own. EFE-EPA


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