Facebook has folded and will return in the coming days to the activity of media pages in Australia and the possibility of sharing journalistic content, after the Australian government agreed to some changes in the media law it promotes.
The law requires for the first time Google and Facebook to pay publishers in the country for the use of their content within the social network, search engines or news services of the two online platforms.
Facebook provoked international outrage with its decision last week to remove all journalistic content from its pages in Australia – newspaper pages and news networks whose millions of followers were completely emptied of the posts that appeared in them, and users were not allowed to share journalistic content.
In what was defined as a “mistake” by the company itself, government pages related to the fight against Corona, mental health and more were also blocked, just on the eve of the opening of the vaccination campaign against the plague in the country. Prime Minister Scott Morrison came out against the “Facebook decision to stop being friends,” but updated over the weekend that the company was back on the negotiating table.
Today (Tuesday), according to reports, negotiations ended with Facebook folding in exchange for one significant change in the law: The government will not be able to implement the new law on Facebook or Google if companies prove they have signed enough direct agreements with media to pay for content.
It is not clear now what will be defined as “sufficient agreements”, but in any case this option also increases the power and authority of the Australian regulator compared to the existing situation, and makes the companies dependent on it.
In addition, the companies will receive a month’s notice in advance if the government finds that the companies are not following the existing law, in order to change the situation. The new law requires them to pay, and stipulates that a government arbitration commission will determine the appropriate compensation in case they do not.
“The Australian government has made it clear that we will still have the ability to decide whether news will appear on Facebook and we will not automatically have to negotiate,” the company said after the Australian finance minister announced the agreement. “For small or local seas.”
The tactics of the giants: divide and rule
The wording of the new sections added to the law has not yet been officially announced. But it seems that this means that Facebook is in fact adopting the model that Google began to adopt after losing a similar legal battle in France – signing as many direct agreements with publishers and content sites as possible, and trying to use the “divide and rule” method to reduce the amounts they pay.
Both companies fear a situation where an association of all publishers in a particular country will negotiate collectively, due to the high price that may be required. Google has already signed direct agreements with media outlets such as Le Monde, FAZ and dozens of others in Europe, but has also carried And gave collectively in front of the AGIP Publishers Association which includes 300 newspapers and magazines in the country.
In any case, the Australian model promises an advantage to the big publishers, who can negotiate and threaten the two companies. And also with other news and content organizations.
In France, the two companies already pay hundreds of millions of euros, according to estimates, in annual compensation to the country’s media for the use of their content, and in other countries this is done voluntarily. French legislation anticipates the situation in the EU, but all European countries must adopt the “digital directive” that requires companies to pay publishers by June this year.
The amended law is expected to go to a vote in Australia in the coming days, and more countries around the world have promised to adopt the “Australian model” as it is known.
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