Facebook has warned that it will ban the sharing of news stories on Facebook and Instagram in Australia if a law is passed by that would require Facebook, Google, and other tech companies to pay media publishers in order to host their content.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has drafted a bill that if instated would require social media and search companies to negotiate directly with media and pay them directly for hosting news articles.
If the law is passed, a notification would alert Australian individuals and businesses on both Facebook and Instagram that sharing of news is no longer possible.
According to the New York Times, Google suggested some of its services would be affected in Australia were the law to pass, claiming it would give larger media companies “special treatment”, leading to demands that may mean keeping Google search free would be problematic.
Facebook Managing Director for Australia & New Zealand Will Easton said in a blog post that “Australia is drafting a new regulation that misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect,” and that if the law is passed “we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram. This is not our first choice – it is our last.”
Facebook argues that publishers already place their content on Facebook through other channels and so to pay them for voluntarily doing so is unfair. It also thinks that the value Facebook gives publishers is being ignored. Easton said that in the first five months of 2020, 2.3 billion clicks drove traffic to Australian news websites “at no charge”, equating the traffic to be “worth an estimated $200 AUD to Australian publishers.”
Were the law to pass, it would mean Facebook would not launch Facebook News in Australia, the service live in the US and coming to other countries that adds news from verified sources in a new tab in the Facebook app. Facebook pays the publishers it partners with for this scheme.