Australia’s developing media laws continue to get spicy, with US officials the latest detractors.
Under proposed legislation introduced in December last year, currently before the Australian Senate, it would become mandatory for global giants Google and Facebook to pay to access local news stories — a move the US Government doesn’t like.
US Assistant Trade Representatives Daniel Bahar and Karl Ehlers mention in a submission to the Australian Senate that such legislation would be detrimental to both Australia and the US — the latter of which is where Google and Facebook are based.
Bahar and Ehlers concede the latest legislation revisions partially addresses their concerns including “a more balanced evaluation of the value news businesses and platforms offer each other”, they believe “significant issues remain”.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is adamant the Government will see the legislation through despite the US submission.
If the laws were to pass, it would be a world-first scenario, something the international tech companies likely wouldn’t want established as a precedent.
Why does the Australian Government want to implement such laws? The intention is to attempt to bridge the revenue gap between Google and Facebook, and media organisations.
As mentioned by the ABC, an inquiry from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found that for every $100 spent on online advertising, only $19 goes towards media companies with Google and Facebook eating up the rest.
In an explainer, also from the ABC, it’s suggested that social media companies will need to reach a deal with media organisations for how much they’ll pay to access their news content — otherwise they’ll have a decision made for them.
Predictably, the tech companies are less than thrilled about the prospect of having to pay for something they’ve so far accessed for free. Potential repercussions if the laws pass may include not being able to post news from Australian websites on Facebook.
Additionally, Google admitted to “running a few experiments” that affected search results for Australian news stories, something that is slated to end next month.
Will Easton, Facebook Australia’s Managing Director, believes the social media company adds hundreds of millions of dollars’ value to local news outlets already through clicks and referral traffic.
Even Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the world wide web, doesn’t like the proposed laws.
Long story short, there are a lot of competing interests at play here, and everyone wants their slice of the money pie.
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