Home News Australia takes on Big Tech, so Facebook blocks ALL news stories from Australia for the entire world

Australia takes on Big Tech, so Facebook blocks ALL news stories from Australia for the entire world

by J.C McCallum
Australia takes on Big Tech, so Facebook blocks ALL news stories from Australia for the entire world

Australia is now pushing Big Tech to make deals with news publishers after a recently released 18-month report from their Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. They want these Big Tech companies to pay news agencies for content that appears on their platforms and they also want to break their dominance and thus their censorship:

NEWSBUSTERS – In a landmark compromise, Australia’s government has made Google, the world’s most powerful search engine, come to the table to make a deal.

“Google has been in a highly publicized spat with the Australian government in recent months over a bill — the News Media Bargaining Code — that would force Google to pay news publishers for stories that surface in Google Search inquiries,” CNET summarized Feb. 16. “The conflict almost turned into a confrontation,” but eventually Google had to take “a more conciliatory approach” after a senate committee recommended the bill become an official law.

If the News Media Bargaining Code bill becomes law, it “would give Google and Facebook 90 days to reach licensing agreements with qualifying Australian publishers for the news content that appears on Google’s search and Facebook’s feed.” If no bargain is made, Google may face severe consequences as “government-appointed arbitrators would hand down a binding decision on how much, and how, the tech titans paid.”

“The deals are big news for Australia’s large publishers” who stand to profit, CNET explained. But it’s “arguably bigger news for Google, which could be forced to ink similar licensing agreements with media companies around the world.” A member of European Parliament reportedly told CNET last week that he hopes to establish similar laws in his own region, and a Canadian minister has allegedly cited Australia’s legislation as a proof-of-concept to push Google and Facebook into paying publishers in his own country.

Vanderbilt University professor of law Daniel Gervais illustrated that the stakes are incredibly high: “If Australia succeeds in passing the law and showing that it works, it could be a precedent for others,” CNET relayed, “for Canada, New Zealand and perhaps others.”

Even Microsoft leadership has praised the legislation.

“Australia’s proposal will reduce the bargaining imbalance that currently favors tech gatekeepers and will help increase opportunities for independent journalism,” Microsoft President Brad Smith commented in a Feb 11 blog. He suggested that this News Media Bargaining Code legislation is “part of what’s needed for technology, journalism and American democracy itself.”

Australia is also trying to limit what personal data these companies can sell to advertisers:

Countries around the world have increasingly become wary of Big Tech’s dominance in recent months, and Australia is thinking about hitting at least one tech behemoth where it hurts. “An Australian regulator is considering letting internet users choose what personal data companies like Google share with advertisers, as part of the country’s attempts to shatter the dominance of tech titans,” Reuters reported Jan. 27. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has also proposed the tactic of “limiting the internet giants’ ability to access users’ online histories to cross-sell products,” Reuters added.

The extent of Google’s dominance on advertising in Australia is staggering. The ACCC has blasted the current state of affairs as being “marked by a lack of competition, transparency and choice,” Reuters paraphrased. The ACCC reportedly estimated: “Google’s share of Australian digital advertising revenue at between 50% and 100%, depending on the service.”

ACCC Chair Rodney Sims explained that Google’s multifaceted grip on power is the root of the problem, according to Reuters. “Google is the only one that can determine the effectiveness of ads, so really often they’re marking their own homework when it comes to the effectiveness of the ads they supply,” said Sims. In short, Google could be paid to host ads, and then the tech company could pretend the ads were far more effective than they actually were, in order to make sure clients keep paying for them. “There’s a lot wrong with the market … and it’s effectively dominated by one player,” Sims added.

I know a lot of this focuses on Google, but Facebook is a big part of this as well.

Here’s an graph showing how Facebook’s share of advertising revenue has skyrocketed in the last 5 years against others:

Facebook has now responded to this push for licensing by blocking all news stories from Australia to the entire world:

In other words, Facebook will just block all news from Australia if they don’t get their way.

I hope the Australia government doesn’t cave to these Big Tech companies. They only have themselves to blame for becoming so big that they believe they should censor the world.

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