Facebook and Google have taken opposing views on whether to pay local publishers for their content.
A common adversary was not enough for Big Tech rivals Google and Facebook to work together.
The tech giants on Wednesday took opposing sides to upcoming rules in Australia that would force both companies to pay local publishers whenever their content appears on these digital platforms.
Google made peace with Australia’s biggest publisher, Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp, and agreed to a three-year licensing deal. The search giant signed similar deals with the country’s other largest publishers. Yet, the same day, Facebook decided it would restrict all news content — both from Australian publishers and international outlets — from appearing on its platforms in the country.
The move showed how the friction among two of Silicon Valley’s biggest corporations is becoming increasingly heated even as they face the same regulatory challenges across the globe.
The months-long battle has pitted Google and Facebook against the country’s entrenched media interests, including those of Murdoch who owns much of Australia’s media landscape. The tug-of-war has become the latest skirmish in a global fight over who has the right — tech companies or newspapers — to profit from digital material that appears on people’s screens every day.
“Facebook does not steal news content. Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook,” Campbell Brown, the company’s vice president of global news partnerships, said in a statement titled “The Value of News on Facebook.”
“I hope in the future, we can include news for people in Australia once again,” she added. “For now, we continue to be focused on bringing Facebook News and other new products to more countries and we have no intention of slowing down.”
Yet hours later, Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer and a leading proponent of the new rules, said he had talked to Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and both sides had agreed to keep talking to find a possible solution.
Australia’s lawmakers are in the final throes of passing the “News Media Bargaining Code,” legislation that would order Facebook and Google (but not other Big Tech companies that display local content) to pay publishers for their digital material. Both companies had threatened to pull out of the country, though local officials had rejected those claims as scaremongering.
“It will be a disruption for Australians if they carried out their threats. The world is watching. It’s a high stakes game,” Rod Sims, head of Australia’s competition regulator who has championed for the new rules, told POLITICO, speaking before Facebook’s announcement on Wednesday.
The Big Tech spat in Australia follows a similar battle in Europe where rules passed in 2018 also required tech companies to compensate local publishers when their content appeared with aggregated news services like Google News. That led to a bitter lobbying battle, particularly in France, where the search giant earlier this year agreed to pay newspapers after initially refusing to do so.
The diverging decisions by Google and Facebook on how to handle the upcoming Australian rules may highlight the different priorities for each company.
While they have both collectively earmarked billions to help publishers worldwide adapt to the new digital landscape, Facebook has tried to pull back from serving up news content to its users, in part because of the polarization around the recent U.S. election in which online content, often from media organizations, may have inflamed tensions. News content, according to the social networking giant, represents just 4 percent of the content that its users see in their feeds, globally.
In contrast, Google has invested significantly in its “News Showcase” service that allows publishers from Australia, Europe, the United States and elsewhere to display their content — and make money from it — within the search giant’s expanding ecosystem of digital services.
Yet even for the tech giant, Wednesday’s announcement to pay Murdoch and other media groups represented an abrupt U-turn. Only a week earlier, Kent Walker, Google’s chief legal officer, had slammed Australia’s proposals, while still acknowledging a willingness to pay local publishers.
“The law would unfairly require unknown payments for simply showing links to news businesses, while giving, to a favored few, special previews of search ranking,” he said.
UPDATED: This article has been updated to include comments from Josh Frydenberg.This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Tech policy coverage: Pro Technology. Our expert journalism and suite of policy intelligence tools allow you to seamlessly search, track and understand the developments and stakeholders shaping EU Tech policy and driving decisions impacting your industry. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the code ‘TECH’ for a complimentary trial.
Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/australia-facebook-google-publishers/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication