On Thursday (18), Facebook announced that Australian publishers can no longer post or share content on the platform and that users in the country cannot view or share news from anywhere. The drastic step taken by Mark Zuckerberg’s company is a protest against a new Australian law that is expected to dictate how tech companies pay publishers for news content.
Google is also opposed to the law but, in a different move, has opted to pay thousands of dollars to local publishers in a secretive deal, ahead of the new law’s launch in Australia.
The implementation of news restrictions on Facebook was not easy. Several Australian government pages offering public health advice on coronavirus, charities and the country’s own Facebook page were accidentally restricted when the ban came into force.
Facebook, in turn, declared to CNBC: “As the law does not provide clear guidance on defining the content of news, we have adopted a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted. However, we will revert all pages that have been inadvertently affected “.
The government has stepped up attacks on the social network, saying it will not be intimidated by big tech.
reproduction / mashable
Even Facebook page in Australia has been blocked
It may seem that Facebook is the villain of the story. But it is not. The new Australian law is bad, confusing and basically benefits media barons like Rupert Murdoch, who doesn’t even need support, as his operations make millions of dollars annually.
Mostly, the law is not about paying for journalistic content, and Google and Facebook are not opposed to disbursing money for journalism. Google plans to spend more than $ 1 billion on news next year through the Google News Showcase, a guide on Google News that contains licensed content from official partners and other initiatives. Facebook also passes millions of dollars to publishers every year.
The problem with Australian law is that it puts the possibility of choosing winners in the press in the hands of the government and kills independent journalism. In addition, it requires payment to post links (but, if we will charge for journalism links, why not for any type of link?). Basically, it interferes with the way content is freely shared on networks, one of the bases of the internet as we know it.
Journalist Jeff Jarvis, a respected voice in the media and technology industry, poses the problem as follows: “First, Google: what Google’s payment to News Corp. demonstrates is that media blackmail works. Even if it isn’t a payment to pay directly for links, this is still a terrible precedent for the network and its architecture and ethics. Nobody, neither Google, nor you or me, should be pressured to pay for links to content. That, as Sir Tim said Berners-Lee to the Australian authorities, breaks the web. I would have hoped that Google had defended the principles – that is, the open network. On the one hand, they are not paying for the links themselves. But they still paid the devil Murdoch . They gave in “.
It is also interesting to note the role of Australian politicians in the discussion. By creating an unacceptable law, they forced Google to pay to circumvent the law. The problem is that this money is not going to Australian taxpayers or supporting independent journalism. The deal’s biggest beneficiary is tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who controls 70% of Australia’s media and has profited $ 263 million in the past year.
Facebook, on the other hand, took the difficult path and accepted the damage to the image. For Jarvis, there are two interpretations. “The positive thing is that Facebook stayed true to the principle, decided not to give in to Murdoch’s blackmail (or not, since Zuckerberg already presented a check to Robert Thomson of News Corp. in New York a year ago) and defended the sanctity of the link on the web. The cynical interpretation is that the news is a headache for Facebook, and this moment allows them to return to a Facebook dedicated to dogs, parties and sex “.
News accounts for less than 4% of Facebook traffic. On Google, less than 2% of searches. However, as Australian publications will also not be able to post news on Facebook, the rest of the world will not see any news from the country on the social network. According to the measurement company Chartbeat, traffic from outside Australia has already dropped 20% for publishers; internal traffic, more than 10%.
This discussion is fundamental, because more countries and politicians have expressed interest in interfering in the relationship between technology companies and the press, but also with the very functioning of the internet. It is no different in Brazil.
Some, like Will Oremus, from, noted that removing high-quality news sources from Facebook is likely to provide a boost for low-quality blog posts and memes.
There is still a chance that people will realize the real value of quality content and maybe even return to the sites of traditional media outlets. The probability is low, but in that case, Facebook’s decision will have been even more correct.
However, as Casey Newton noted on Platform, “I would like Australia to interpret Facebook’s rejection as a sign that it should totally rethink its approach to media regulation. It could only tax companies based on their revenues, for example. This it could allocate these revenues to supporting journalism – even to nonprofit public media, which has consistently demonstrated powerful civic benefits. Or it could follow a bargaining code that requires large media conglomerates to create and support jobs in journalism, rather than to simply accept tens of millions of dollars and spend them however they want – or simply return them to shareholders. “
Unfortunately, Google’s decision to yield to pressure from politicians and media moguls signals to the rest of the world that the formula works. Wait for more movements in this direction. Journalism is the loser.
This text is argumentative and does not necessarily express the opinion of the TV News. The Media Column is published every Thursday – exceptionally, it gets an extra edition this Friday (19th).