Media: Australia unveils its plan to charge Google and Facebook

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Australia unveiled its bill on Friday to force Google and Facebook to pay media outlets for their content, an initiative that should be fought by the tech giants.

It was Australian Finance Minister Josh Frydenberg who made public this “binding code of conduct” supposed to govern relations between media in great financial difficulty and the giants that dominate the Internet, after 18 months of negotiations that have not allowed to bring the two parties together.

In addition to the obligation to pay in exchange for content, the code deals with issues such as access to user data, the transparency of algorithms and the order in which content appears in the information flows of platforms and the results of research.

“It is nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape that is at stake with these changes,” Frydenberg said during a press conference.

He said the bill would be presented to parliament in the coming weeks and that it would provide for “significant penalties” which, if violated, would cost the groups concerned hundreds of millions of dollars.

The code will eventually apply to any digital platform using content from Australian media, but it will initially focus on Facebook and Google, two of the richest and most powerful companies in the world.

The Australian initiative is being followed closely around the world at a time when the media is suffering in a digital economy where advertising revenue is increasingly captured by Facebook, Google and other big tech firms.

The media crisis has been compounded by the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In Australia dozens of newspapers have been closed and hundreds of journalists sacked in recent months.

Facebook and Google are strongly opposed to any measure that would force them to share advertising revenue. They hinted that if mandatory payments were introduced they could simply boycott the Australian media.

But Frydenberg warned that the future code would ban any “discrimination” against Australian media by these companies.

“The bill presented today will attract the attention of many regulatory agencies and governments around the world,” the Australian minister predicted.

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