Australia unveils plan to force Google and Facebook to pay for news

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The Australian government has unveiled its plan to force tech giants like Google and Facebook to pay for news for their content.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that the “world leader” draft code of conduct aims to give publishers “a level playing field to ensure fair development”.

Many news agencies have closed or abandoned jobs this year in declining profits.

Facebook and Google strongly oppose the proposal, also suggesting that they could move away from the Australian news market.

Frydenberg said the code of conduct – drawn up by the Australian competition regulator – will be discussed by parliament.

It could impose “substantial sanctions” worth hundreds of millions of dollars on technology companies they don’t respect, he said.

What’s in the draft code?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission project calls on tech companies to pay for content, although it defines what it is worth.

This would allow printing companies to negotiate as a block with technology giants for the content that appears in their news feeds and search results.

If negotiations fail, the matter could be arbitrated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The draft code also covers other issues, including notifying print companies of algorithm changes.

The penalties could be up to $ 10 million (£ 5 million; $ 7 million) for violation or 10% of the company’s local turnover.

The code will initially focus on Google and Facebook, but could be extended to other tech companies, the treasurer said.

What are the topics?

Frydenberg said: “Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake with these changes.”

“Today’s bill will draw the attention of many regulatory agencies and governments around the world,” he said.

Australia’s largest media companies have lobbied for the proposal.

It was a “watershed moment” in efforts to end tech companies’ free-riding “, News Corp Australia executive president Michael Miller said Friday.

Google’s local CEO, Mel Silva, said the company is “deeply disappointed” and said the move would discourage innovation.

“Heavy government intervention threatens to hamper Australia’s digital economy and affects the services we can offer Australians,” he said.

Facebook previously suggested that it could remove Australian news from its platform if these requirements were imposed – claiming that the cost for its business would be negligible.

Which neighbor?

The code of conduct will be subject to a one-month consultation period before being discussed in parliament “shortly after” August, said Frydenberg.

If the legislation is passed, the code is designed to be reviewed after one year.

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