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Friday, 24 September 2021 11:13

Facebook again shows govt who is the boss in news content deals Featured

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Facebook again shows govt who is the boss in news content deals Pixabay

Facebook has once again shown the Australian Government that it cares little about any edicts Canberra may have issued, snubbing SBS and The Conversation when they sought deals with the social media giant under the news media content legislation.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald said Facebook had given no reason for its refusal to sign agreements with these two organisations. Agreements have been signed with bigger companies like News Corporation and Nine Entertainment.

The report said the two organisations had been told a number of weeks back that there would be no talks and no agreements.

Earlier this year, Facebook restricted publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content, adding that this was in response to the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code which had been passed by the House of Representatives.

Amendments were introduced to the law after Facebook went nuclear, with these being:

a decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform had made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses;

a digital platform would be notified of the government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification;

non-differentiation provisions would not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and

final offer arbitration would be a last resort where commercial deals could not be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.

When a platform is "designated", that means the government can enforce a deal between a digital platform and a news publisher through an arbitrator.

It remains to be seen whether the government, in the midst of the pandemic and with an election around the corner, will dare to rouse Facebook's hackles again.

In contrast, Google has signed deals with both SBS and The Conversation. Presumably that is because it already has enough ongoing fights with authorities around the globe and has decided that discretion is the better part of valour.

Just today, Reuters reported that Google had made an offer to settle an anti-trust investigation which the European Union has launched into its digital advertising practices.

Google is also bidding to settle a probe into its advertising practices in the UK.

The government has positioned itself as being able to command the digital giants to do what it wants. That myth was exploded back in February and a further demonstration of Facebook's power seems very likely to be forthcoming.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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