Australia’s proposed bill to force internet giants like Facebook and Google to pay for content that they link people to on their websites is being met harshly by big tech. While Microsoft supports the notion that Google and Facebook should pay for content, they display in the news feed or search results so media organisations can share in the profit, Google and Facebook think it could grossly affect the way people search for articles online.
The Australian government last year began debating how to make it easy for traditional media organisations to also get paid for their content online content and the government actually thinks it can become a model for the world on how media organisations relate with tech companies.
Google initially didn’t take the news well by threatening to remove its Search engine from the Australian market but it later agreed to start settling with new organisations. In France for example, they have agreed to pay about $1.3b for three years to news organisations. In Australia where the law is originating from, they agreed to pay an undisclosed fee to Murdoch’s News Corp for accessing news across its network. Other Australian news companies have also reached an agreement with Google as well. So as for Google it looks like they won’t be moving out of Australia anytime soon but you can expect more governments to start demanding their fair share to local news organisations as well. Google is seen as a near essential service in Australia as it accounts for 94 percent of internet search traffic.
But Facebook which had refused paying publishers is still remaining defiant by taking the news feature from the Australian market this morning. Many publishers are now complaining that they can longer see their content in the News Feed. Facebook had announced that it will block Australian users from sharing or viewing news going forward as it was not going to go the Google way of settlement.
Facebook in a statement said “Today we made an incredibly difficult decision to restrict the availability of news on Facebook in Australia. For the last three years, Facebook has worked closely with the Australian government on regulation that would help better define the relationships between technology companies and news organizations. Regulatory environments conducive to strong collaboration allow us to build innovative and sustainable ways to support journalism for the long term.”
Facebook’s argument is that it doesn’t index or pull news from other websites like some aggregators, rather every publisher chooses to post their content on Facebook. “Facebook does not steal news content. Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook.” They only promote and show users news stories based on location and interests and as such they shouldn’t be paying anything to news publishers if anything the publishers should be paying Facebook instead.
Facebook in a bid to combat fake news began partnering with some news organisations to display news on relevant subjects like the pandemic.
While it is true that internet giants mostly just provide an algorithm and create an indexing mechanism that allows searchers to get tailor made content using artificial intelligence and other technologies, it also true that they use content wilfully upload to the web and mostly direct users to the websites of the publishers who end up with the traffic.
The problem with this is that, publishers have lost money over time as a result. Take this for example, it is said that over 60 percent of people don’t even bother clicking links on Facebook especially and just get news from headlines which may be fake sometimes. What publishers are saying is that as long as you show their content to hundreds of millions or even billions of people, they should pay a fee to enable news companies stay afloat and Microsoft agrees.
The challenge now is that this could become a global trend and the question is whether Facebook would then remove news from the News feed globally. So, it looks like Facebook could later come to a compromise. The upside to news platforms is that they will start seeing increased traffic to their sites which could lead to direct revenue for them.
You can expect this trend to quickly take over Europe where Facebook and Google could very well be at the centre.