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Facebook and Google diverge according to Australian law




Mike Isaac, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Damian Cave, Edmund Lee

For months, Facebook and Google have been trapped in a gaze between Australian news publishers and lawmakers.

At the heart of the battle is whether tech giants should pay news organizations for news articles shared on the network. Under the law proposed by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, both Google and Facebook must negotiate with media publishers to compensate for the content displayed on their site.

Facebook and Google have been fighting hard to prevent Australian law, which is expected to pass this week or next week, from forcing their hands. But on Wednesday, the two companies diverged sharply on how to circumvent the future of the regulation.

Google began the day by announcing a three-year global agreement with Rupert Murdochs News Corp. to pay for publisher news content. This is one of several recently announced deals that appear to be effectively surrendering to publisher demands. A few hours later, Facebook took the opposite action, stating that it would limit the sharing and viewing of news links in Australia to people and publishers, which quickly took effect.

Don Harrison, president of Google’s Global Partnership, said in a reconciliation to the publisher that the company has invested in supporting news organizations for many years and will announce more partnerships in the near future. He said he wanted.

Facebook hit a distinctly different tone. The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content, said William Easton, Managing Director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, Australia. Said the bill.

The differences show different ways Facebook and Google approach the news. For years, the two Internet giants have treated news publishers more or less the same. Both argued that there was little incentive to pay news outlets for content and that it helped attract a large number of readers to news articles that would be overlooked on low-traffic websites.

But the steady decline in multi-billion dollar newspapers by Google and Facebook has been reaped by digital advertising that has intensified the question of whether the platform is responsible for financially supporting publishers. In recent years, the two companies have begun paying news organizations through a variety of programs, as criticisms of false information on the platform appear to increase the need for quality journalism.

The situation in Australia now emphasizes that the lockstep approach is only going so far, as Facebook and Google ultimately rate the news differently. Google’s mission has long been to organize information around the world. This is an ambition that cannot be achieved without the latest news. News isn’t that central to Facebook. Instead, the company has established itself as a network of users gathered to share photos, political views, internet memes, videos, and in some cases news articles.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, says Google is already accustomed to playing different games in different countries. He said Facebook has a moral stance, but Google may have gone beyond this illusion of a universal approach to doing business in the world.

Australian communications minister Paul Fletcher said the government would move the bill forward despite ongoing conversations with Facebook.

In an interview, he praised Google for being involved in the process and suggested that Facebook would be scrutinized to decide to remove all authoritative and incredible news sources from the platform. did. In an interview with 2GB Radio, Fletcher added that this decision certainly raises questions about the reliability of information on the platform.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the country’s premier competition authority, has spent the past year drafting a bill for the Australian Parliament that requires Facebook and Google to negotiate with media publishers and pay for content. I did. The law includes a code of conduct that allows media companies to negotiate the value of news content individually or collectively with digital platforms.

Google and Facebook saw the proposed bill as a nasty precedent. Negotiations on the proposal continued until 2020, and the two companies openly stated that more drastic measures might need to be taken.

In August, Facebook announced that it would block Australian users and news organizations from sharing local and international news articles on social networks and Instagram if the bill advances. Last month, Google also threatened to make search engines unavailable in Australia if the government approved the law.

But for the past few weeks, Google has sought to mitigate the impact of the proposed bill by signing contracts with media companies such as Reuters and the Financial Times. Last year, Google announced that it promised to pay news publishers a $ 1 billion license fee over three years for the content displayed on Google’s news page and the news feed Discover, which appears on Google’s mobile search app. ..

Wednesday Murdochs News Corp. Google’s agreement with is particularly noteworthy. Both have shown open hostility to each other for years, dating back to the early days of search engines.

In 2009, Murdoch threatened to remove News Corp’s articles from Google for stealing content by Internet giants. Google has long suspected that Murdoch and News Corp. are increasing antitrust scrutiny between Washington and the Attorney General, according to current and former Google executives.

Under the agreement between the two companies, Google will use News Corp for the use of news content without disclosing specific markets or amounts. I agreed to pay for.

However, according to two people familiar with the agreement, the search giant did not find a major problem in past negotiations. The agreement does not appear to explicitly include payment for links or news article excerpts that appear in general search results, which is Google’s main source of power.

News Corporation is also a news release proclaiming the victory of a bizarre quest to get Google to pay for the news, and the deal includes the development of a subscription platform and an investment in video journalism by Google’s subsidiary YouTube. Said that.

Facebook’s decision on Wednesday was in line with previous statements about blocking news links in Australia. This move can be very difficult for Australians, where publishers will not be able to share or post content on Facebook pages and users will not be able to view news articles shared by foreign publishers on Facebook.

In Australia, Facebook’s news ban seems to have been unplanned. The news page worked, but it didn’t. Some users get an error message and others no longer see the stream of posts.

But by 9 am in Sydney, the impact was clear and even more widespread than the Facebook statement suggested. In addition to the news publishers being blocked, the New South Wales Fire Rescue Team, Meteorological Department, and State Police pages have all been wiped out. Even the state government’s page with public health information about the pandemic was blocked, causing anger from many officials and lawmakers.

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