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Facebook bans Australian news as the impact of media law is felt globally

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Facebook has challenged Australian pressure to make Big Tech pay for news by banning content sharing on its platform in the country, the broadest restrictions it has ever imposed on publishers in any part of the world.

The extreme step to remove Australian news came as Google separately reached a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, ending a long-running dispute between the two companies.

Dramatically different approaches mark a watershed moment for the media industry, which hoped Australia’s tough regulatory approach would help restore its trading conditions with Google and Facebook worldwide.

The moves by Google and Facebook came on the day Australia, the cradle of the Murdoch media empire, began debating laws that would force major online platforms to license news.

William Easton, Facebook’s managing director in Australia, said the company would limit the news “with a heavy heart” because the law “fundamentally misunderstands” its relationship with publishers. “He wants to penalize Facebook for content he did not receive or did not request,” he said.

Facebook action will have a global impact. Under the provisions, news from Australian publishers will be blocked on the platform for all Facebook users, regardless of where they are located.

Google had warned that it might need to leave Australia because of the “non-functional” nature of the negotiation code. But it has rushed to conclude deals with Australian publishers in a bid to weaken law enforcement.

The Australian government said it will continue to engage with Facebook but will move forward with legislating the code. Canberra also warned that withdrawing news from Facebook’s platform in Australia could damage its credibility with users.

“We will say that the position that Facebook has taken means that the information that people see on Facebook does not come from fact-checking organizations with paid journalists, editorial policies, etc.,” said Paul Fletcher, Minister of Communications. of Australia.

“Now at a time when there are already questions about the reliability of information on Facebook, this is something they will definitely have to think about about how their platform is handled and understood in Australia.”

Google’s deal with News Corp announced Wednesday goes beyond the Australian market, extending to Murdoch headlines like The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post in the US and The Times and The Sun in the UK. No other news publisher has reached a single agreement with Google in many countries.

Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp., said trying to get the platforms to pay for the use of news content had been a “passionate cause” for the company for “over a decade”.

“I’m glad the trade conditions are changing, not just for News Corp., but for every publisher,” he said. “For many years we were accused of anime in technology windmills, but what was a solitary campaign, a kinetic search, has become a move, and journalism and society will improve.”

Critics said the deal would benefit mainly News Corp rather than the rest of the news industry because other publishers lacked the bargaining power Murdoch enjoyed thanks to his extensive news operations in Australia.

“In any attempt to take power from the platforms, it only gives them more,” said Jeff Jarvis, a professor of journalism at New York City University. “Google has the power to decide which news organizations should get paid and which should not. It is the great players of the old legacy who have political influence who can pull it off. “

The terms of the three-year agreement cover licensing fees for content used in the Google Show Newsase feature, the development of a subscription platform, the sharing of advertising revenue through Google’s advertising technology services, and other audio and video projects.

The size of the News Corp. global deal was not disclosed. Thomson said earlier this month that a deal with Google would “benefit from our company ‘s financial wealth” and have a “material impact”.

Google last year pledged $ 1 billion for three years to buy news content and has reached agreements with publishers in about a dozen countries. But the people involved in the negotiations in Australia told the Financial Times that the amounts now being discussed were “many times” the size of the deals signed in other parts of the world.

FT has reached licensing agreements for news with Google and Facebook.

The legislative passage of the negotiation code in Australia is being closely watched in Europe and the US for evidence that a tougher approach can restore balance between publishers and technology platforms.

But Facebook’s decision to shut down some news services will be an important factor for regulators in assessing the limits of what can be achieved in the news market through legal intervention.

Among the features of the code is an arbitration system that would make binding decisions on tariffs that designated platforms would have to pay news providers if trade negotiations fail.

It remains unclear how Facebook restrictions and the haste of Google deals in Australia will affect the bill and its implementation. As well as the deal with News Corp., Australia’s largest newspaper publisher, Google signed a letter of intent Wednesday with Nine Entertainment, another major media group in the country.

Angela Mills Wade, executive director of the European Council of Publishers, said the News Corp. global agreement “undoubtedly proves the value of news media content for Google”.

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