A law that would call for some tech companies to pay news publishers is making news around the globe.

If you are a Facebook user in Australia who always shares the latest news on your timeline, then chances are you have noticed that something has been different. You can no longer share news posts.

However, things will be back to normal in the next few days. Facebook shut down Australian news pages and banned news links for Australian users in order to protest an upcoming law. This ban was lifted after the social media giant was given assurances by the Australian government that it will not be required to pay publishers. Instead, it will be given the opportunity to negotiate agreements with them — something that it is already beginning to do.

Sydney Morning Herald reported that the social media giant has agreed to pay Seven West Media, a major Australian media company. The said payment is intended for news content. In addition, Facebook is also negotiating with another media company called Nine Entertainment.

Facebook and Google Had Different Responses to the New Law

Moreover, Australia has already passed the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. This could call for Google and Facebook to pay publishers when they host their content. 

The aforementioned law serves as a response to years of complaints that the government gets from news outlets around the globe about the role that Facebook and Google played in the decline of journalism. In addition, the two tech giant’s huge digital ad businesses also played a role in the decimation of journalism’s business model in the internet age. 

Moreover, the two tech companies responded to the then-potential law in completely different ways. Facebook decided to entirely takedown news links and posts. On the other hand, the search engine giant Google made deals with Australian news publishers. 

However, cutting off news from buying post likes on Facebook caused a sizeable amount of backlash from all over the world. For this reason, the social media giant had talks with the Australian government. As a result, there had been a number of last-minute changes to the law. After the changes, Facebook decided that the government’s new terms are already good enough for its ban to the end. The law passed a number of days after. 

Facebook Banned Australian Publications From Posting Content and Australian Users From Sharing News Links

Not long ago, the social media giant had banned all of its platform’s users from sharing links to Australian news sources. Australian publication’s pages were also banned from sharing their own content. In addition, Australian users were prohibited from sharing news links, regardless if those links were Australian and international.

Moreover, the social media giant also blocked everything its algorithm thought was an Australian news source. For this reason, a number of sites that were not even news outlets were taken down. For instance, there were reportedly some government pages that have been restricted. 

However, the impertinent ban seems to be intentional. In fact, it may even be a little punitive.

According to Facebook, the law in question does not provide any clear guidance about the definition of news content. For this reason, it has taken a broad definition in order for it to respect the law as drafted. The company has also noted that it will reverse any pages that were banned cut should not have been. 

Australians Prevented from Buying Facebook Followers

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has his take on the social media giant’s move. According to him, Facebook’s move will not only make the Australian government more determined to pass the law. Rather, it might encourage other governments to pass a similar law. This also prevented Australians from buying Facebook followers online, something they normally do quite often.

Morrison said in a Facebook post that the social media giant’s actions to unfriend Australia by cutting important information services on emergency and health services were as arrogant as the platform was disappointing. He added that these actions are a confirmation of the concerns that several countries are expressing. The concern that he was saying is that the behavior of Big Tech companies shows that they think they are bigger than governments and rules do not apply to them. 

Finally, Morrison ended the post by saying that the Australian government will not be intimidated by Big Tech who are trying to pressure the country’s Parliament as its votes on its important News Media Bargaining Code. 

More About the Law that Facebook Hated

As mentioned, the law requires digital platforms like Facebook and Google to pay news organizations whenever their content is featured on the platforms. For instance, news that shows in Google search or Facebook shares require payments unless the platforms make enough deals with the publishers outside the law. If the digital platforms and news publishers cannot come up with a payment agreement, they need to face an arbiter who will decide a fair price that they will have to pay. If the digital companies did not pay, they will face significant penalties.

Furthermore, the treasury minister will decide which digital platforms will be subjected to the law. 

Notably, Facebook and Google dominate a digital ad business, allowing them to make millions of dollars. On the other hand, news organizations are going bankrupt and have been forcefully opposed to the law.

In the couple of months that passed, both Facebook and Google threatened the Australian government to take their services away from its citizens if the law will pass. However, Google may have seemed to realize that it needs to follow the law. For this reason, it began working out payment deals with publications from Australia. In fact, it has already announced a deal that it had with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. 

Notably, Murdoch is the exceedingly rich and powerful news magnate in Australia. He has been very vocal about his want for a law that requires digital platforms to pay his publications. This goal might have heavily influenced the country’s decision to move forward with the aforementioned law. 

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