Daily Management Review

Facebook Refuses To Negotiate With Australian Publisher As Required By New Law


Facebook Refuses To Negotiate With Australian Publisher As Required By New Law
A claim that the social media company Facebook refused a request by a publisher to negotiate a licensing deal is being looked into by Australia's competition watchdog.
This is the first occasion that the implementation of the toughest online content law in the world will be put to the test.
Facebook was asked by it to begin talks as required under new Australian legislation, said The Conversation, which publishes current affairs commentary by academics. Under the new law, content supply deals with media outlets have to be negotiated by the social media firm and Alphabet Inc's Google.
The Conversation said that even though it was among the first of the publishers in Australia to secure a similar deal with Google when the new law was about to be passed and implemented in 2020, Facebook provided on reason for not negotiating.
The consequence of this development would be the requirement for use of a controversial mechanism that is salient to the target of Australia to get back advertising revenues from Google and Facebook if either of the companies did not agree to negotiate licence fees with publishers. In that case the amount to be paid by the companies can be decided by a government-appointed arbitrator.
The company was "focused on concluding commercial deals with a range of Australian publishers", said Facebook's head of news partnerships for Australia, Andrew Hunter, in response to queries in the matter from the media.
No answers were provided by Hunter about questions specific to The Conversation. He however said that the social media firm was planning a separate initiative "to support regional, rural and digital Australian newsrooms and public-interest journalism in the coming months". No further details of the plan were provided.
"If Google's done a deal with them, I can't see how Facebook should argue that they shouldn't," Rod Sims, the chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), said in an interview.
"The question of designation might need to come into play," he noted, using the term for assigning an arbitrator.
Sims also noted that the treasurer made the decision to designate a Big Tech firm for intervention, according to the new law, and according to advice from the ACCC. He however also said that it would offer "an absolute 'no' for an organisation that should be getting a deal is something we'll look into."
He said that The Conversation was "exactly what we had in mind with the Code" even though there were other steps to be taken prior to any further action can be initiated.
New laws are being introduced by governments across the world for forcing the tech giants to compensate media companies for use of the links that drive readers and consequently advertising revenue, to their platforms. Australia is however the only country where the fees payable may be set by the government if negotiations fail. It is pertinent to mention that Facebook had blocked newsfeeds in the country just prior to the new law being passed.