Facebook joins Google in condemning Australia’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code

In a blog post by Facebook’s Australian Managing Director, Will Easton, the platform voiced its concerns over the Australian government’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code.

The proposed laws will force tech giants such as Google and Facebook to share their ad revenue with Australian news publishers, whom argued in a 2019 inquiry that too much of their online advertising revenue was going to those sharing their content and not back to them.

Aussie treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, then ordered the ACCC to write up a code of conduct that would ask the tech companies to volunteer cash to the traditional media publishers crying blue murder. The ACCC, whom appear to be the most sane people in this mess, advised old-mate publishers that there’s Buckley’s chance of that happening.

The mandatory code will cover issues including the sharing of data, ranking of news content online and the sharing of revenue generated from news.

It will be enforced through penalties and sanctions and will include a binding dispute resolution process.

The same legislation would also require Facebook and Google to provide advanced notification of when their algorithm’s change, something no other country in the world or organisation currently has access to and makes the likelihood of any of this eventuating infinitesimally smaller.

Facebook have simply outlined a plan to pull any links off to Australian publishers from their platform, essentially drying up billions of clicks onto the very same publisher’s wanting some extra cash.

Google, never short of looking after number one, have gone on the offensive with popups and misleading information about how “Google is at risk” in the way Australian’s use their platform. The ACCC, once again with level heads, have told Google to stop with the falsehoods and fear mongering in a response of their own.

The ACCC haven’t held back in calling out Facebook either. A new letter published just after this news story reflects on Facebook’s existing commitments to already pay for news services and that the code seeks to make that information public. It also alarmingly points out that 49%  of Australian Facebook users use the site for news about COVID-19

Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses.

Whilst the government’s intent here is noble (to an extent), there’s a case on both sides here with each hamming it up a notch to get what they want. Google & Facebook are clearly over-playing their innocence in all this, meanwhile media publishers are looking for a silver bullet amongst the headwinds of the COVID pandemic and the long slow decline of their dinosaur media-empire business models.

UPDATE (01/09/2020 4:30pm) – ACCC respond to Facebook’s open letter.