Online News Act | The return of threats from the tech giants

Dear Canadians, the time has come to keep your cool. There’s no need to panic over Facebook’s threats to block news content sharing.

Posted at 12:00 p.m.

Emma McDonald

Emma McDonald
The author was senior policy adviser to former Australian Communications Minister Paul Fletcher*

Limiting the power of big tech companies is a challenge, to be sure, but the good news is that a mobilization is taking place around the world.

Australia experienced the blocking of news content by Facebook just as the Australian government was about to introduce laws similar to the Online News Act Canadian.

When Facebook ‘disliked’ Australia in February 2021, many Australians were frustrated and politicians on all sides expressed their anger, but that didn’t stop the Australian government from standing up to powerful adversaries and adopt the world’s first news media trading code (News Media Bargaining Code) a week later.

Just like the News Media Bargaining Code in Australia, the Online News Act aims to address an imbalance in negotiations between media and tech giants. Facebook and Google have profited for years from including news content on their platforms. Government intervention is the only mechanism that will force them to sit at the bargaining table to pay for news and information that adds value to their business.

The Australian Code was established in response to concerns from small and large media about the impact of large digital platforms on Australian media and local advertising markets.

Newsrooms decimated

We realize this is not an Australian problem. Globally, the market power of Facebook and Google, with their sophisticated advertising technology and massive scale, has been disrupting and decimating local media for at least a decade. We have all witnessed the disappearance of ratings and jobs in newsrooms, as well as the alarming rate of loss of advertising revenue.

I worked on the development of News Media Bargaining Code Australia as it evolved from competition policy to major micro-economic reform. Facebook has always maintained that the presence of news on its platform has no economic value and asserted that the law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between [la] platform and publishers”. Google even claimed that the code was “unenforceable.”

Despite outrage from big tech companies, the code has proven to be a hit for Australian media big and small. It turns out to be feasible and effective.

Shortly after the code came into effect, most of Australia’s major media companies entered into lucrative deals with Google and Facebook, the total value of which is estimated at nearly A$200 million.

The code did not disrupt the internet, and it showed that it was possible to limit the dominance of platforms in the market.

Independent publishers

It took a little longer for smaller independent publishers to get to the negotiating table, but we finally got there, together with Google.

In November 2021, the Minderoo Foundation brought together a group of 24 small independent publishers to bargain collectively with Google and Facebook. Many are very small or family-owned publishers, located in rural communities, outlying urban areas, multicultural and LGBTQI+ communities, and some offer public interest journalism focused on the arts, science and culture. ‘environment.

Before our intervention, these public interest publishers were unable to communicate with the platforms. Our collective bargaining efforts have put an end to willful blindness. Facebook quickly dismissed us on the grounds that it had subsidy programs for small publishers, but Google came to the table and negotiated with us.

It took six months of back and forth negotiations, but all of our smaller publishers got deals and funding from Google.

The Australian Code was designed to help support the sustainability of public service journalism in Australia. Media that perform a public interest function and employ people come in all shapes and sizes. The code and our collective bargaining efforts have produced positive results for small newspaper companies in Australia.

More than ever, we need local information to build trust, fight misinformation and strengthen our democracy.

It’s up to you, dear Canadians!

Now is the time to stand up to the threats from big tech companies and pass a law to save your local news media.

* Emma McDonald is head of government relations at the Minderoo Foundation, an Australian philanthropic organization.

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