Facebook has backed down from its bullying, making a deal with the Australian government less than a week after it tried to intimidate it into dropping a bill to make tech giants pay for content that drives their traffic. It’s yet more reason the United States should follow the Aussies’ lead.
Facebook went nuclear against Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code last week, barring users worldwide from sharing Australian news and even pulling the pages of such critical government services as bushfire warnings and COVID information.
Google, also a target of the bill that would mandate tech giants reach agreements with news organizations to pay for use of their content, did the right thing and started negotiating, making revenue-sharing deals with The Financial Times, Reuters and News Corp., the largest owner of newspapers by circulation in Australia (and The Post’s parent company). Facebook, in contrast, opted to play bully.
It didn’t work — indeed, the intimidation campaign prompted Canada to start following in the Aussies’ footsteps and help build a coalition of countries to make the tech giants play more fairly worldwide.
“There’s no doubt that Australia has been a proxy battle for the world,” Aussie Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Tuesday. “Facebook and Google have not hidden the fact that they know that the eyes of the world are on Australia.” He said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised to make revenue-sharing deals with Australian news organizations and will restore Aussie news to users within days.
In exchange, Australia agreed to give Facebook more time to negotiate and add to the bill a mediation process before final arbitration between tech giants and media outlets. And the treasurer will take into account a company’s contributions to the country’s news industry — signaling that Facebook knows it must give back to the journalists whose hard work has helped make its site a success.
It’s a win for Down Under and for journalism. Washington should take notice and make the tech giants who make billions from advertising pay American media their fair share, too.
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