Facebook rejects talks with Australia publisher, may test online law

Australia’s competitors watchdog is trying right into a declare that Facebook refused a writer’s request to barter a licensing deal, the regulator advised Reuters, setting the stage for the primary test of the world’s hardest online content material law.

The Conversation, which publishes present affairs commentary by teachers, mentioned it requested Facebook to start talks as required under new Australian legislation that requires the social media firm and Alphabet’s Google to negotiate content-supply deals with media outlets.

Facebook declined with out giving a purpose, The Conversation mentioned, although the writer was among the many first in Australia to safe the same deal with Google within the lead-up to the law in 2020.

The knockback may current the primary test of a controversial mechanism distinctive to Australia’s effort to claw again promoting {dollars} from Google and Facebook: If they refuse to barter license charges with publishers, a government-appointed arbitrator may step in.

In a press release responding to Reuters’ questions, Facebook’s head of stories partnerships for Australia, Andrew Hunter, mentioned the corporate was “focused on concluding commercial deals with a range of Australian publishers.”

Hunter didn’t reply particular questions regarding The Conversation, however mentioned Facebook was planning a separate initiative “to support regional, rural and digital Australian newsrooms and public-interest journalism in the coming months,” with out giving particulars.

Mark Zuckerberg seen on a monitor screen
The US is amongst governments around the globe which were introducing laws to rein in Big Tech giants like Facebook (its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, seen right here testifying remotely to Congress on a problem relating to online companies’ legal responsibility for third-party content material).
POOL/AFP by way of Getty Images

“If Google’s done a deal with them, I can’t see how Facebook should argue that they shouldn’t,” Rod Sims, the chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), mentioned in an interview.

“The question of designation might need to come into play,” he famous, utilizing the time period for assigning an arbitrator.

Under the law, the choice to designate a Big Tech agency for intervention was made by the treasurer, which is suggested by the ACCC, famous Sims, however “an absolute ‘no’ for an organization that should be getting a deal is something we’ll look into.”

The Conversation was “exactly what we had in mind with the Code,” he mentioned, though the scenario had some option to play out earlier than any additional motion could be taken.

Governments around the globe are introducing laws to make the tech giants compensate media companies for the links that drive readers – and advertising revenue – to their platforms. But Australia is the one nation the place the federal government may set the charges if negotiations fail, an element that drove Facebook to block newsfeeds in the country simply earlier than it was handed.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who earlier this 12 months negotiated with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over the legal guidelines, was not instantly accessible for remark.

Logos of various news sites seen on Facebook in this photo illustration
Australia’s capability to set the charges if negotiations relating to online content material fail between Facebook and a media supplier drove Facebook to dam newsfeeds to Australia simply earlier than the online content material law was handed.
Getty Images


Since the law took impact, a handful of the nation’s greatest media gamers, from News Corp to the Australian Broadcasting Corp, have struck deals with the tech giants.

But some small and unbiased publishers whose content material helps draw four-fifths of Australia’s 25 million inhabitants to the Facebook website mentioned the law had created a two-tier business the place rival titles that had been owned by giant mum or dad corporations secured offers whereas others missed out.

Nelson Yap, writer of Australian Property Journal, which is on a authorities register of media companies lined by the law, mentioned he was in early discussions with Google however had emailed Facebook twice with no response.

Facade of News Corp.
News Corp. is likely one of the main media corporations which have struck offers with Facebook relating to online content material in Australia, however smaller media corporations say they’ve had a tougher time making related agreements.
Getty Images

He mentioned he learn Facebook’s public statements about speaking to publishers and “I’m sitting here going, with whom? Not with us. Despite reaching out, we haven’t heard anything. We’re all scratching our heads, trying to work out what to do next.”

A Facebook spokesperson didn’t reply a query about any contacts with the Property Journal. Country Press Australia, a regional newspaper business group, mentioned it was holding constructive talks with Facebook on behalf about 140 publishers.

The Conversation editor Misha Ketchell mentioned that “obviously we are disappointed that we haven’t been able to engage in negotiations with Facebook so far, but we remain optimistic that we will be able to reach an agreement.”

The ACCC’s Sims mentioned the deal pipeline had “gone quieter than I would have envisaged” however urged smaller publishers to be affected person.

“On the one hand I’m concerned that people aren’t getting a response to the emails, on the other hand I have seen it before and then things change and deals get done,” he mentioned.

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