Australia’s move to tame Facebook and Google is just the start of a global battle

By | February 25, 2021

Michelle Meagher writes:

Facebook and Google have become accustomed to an open world of information on which to build their closed ecosystems. Not any more. Australia is proceeding with a new media code that will force platforms to pay for news and bargain with news publishers. While Google has complied, Facebook called the regulators’ bluff by banning Australian news from its platform, before reaching a deal with the Australian government that allows it to avoid the new code, but only if it signs agreements with key publishers.

The new law is a bold move that shows that countries are realising they have more to gain by regulating the digital titans rather than bowing to their might. But it will be ineffective unless regulators around the world address the source of the problem: the dominance of Facebook and Google, and the concentration of power of the old media empires, which together undermine international, national and local journalism.

As a regulatory experiment, Australia’s new law was a success before it even came into force. Facebook’s temporary news ban was poorly implemented. “News” was interpreted broadly, with the Australian weather agency, public health services, domestic violence charities and trade unions all blocked from the platform. These pages are now due to be reinstated, but the action has exposed Facebook’s power as a news source and its willingness to degrade its product and deprive its users of vital news even during a pandemic. [Continue reading…]

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