After an unexpected news blockade of Facebook and harsh words from the Australian government, the minds have calmed down quickly. This morning, the tech company and the Australian government announced that they had reached agreement, stopping the platform from blocking news media. Facebook is now going to try to make appointments with publishers.
The stalemate that occurred last Wednesday was about paying media to use their content. The government wants Facebook and Google to pull the wallet; that should help the Australian media industry.
If it is not possible to reach agreements with publishers in the coming period, an arbitration committee will decide on the amount. Something the platforms didn‘t see fit.
Criticism of bill
“ Everyone loses a little,” Mark Deuze, professor of media studies (UvA) responds to the outcome. “Facebook was bullying too much, and Australia was rather foolish with the digital culture we live in.” He refers to the fact that there should be paid for links alone. This led to a lot of criticism from the tech industry, including from the creator of the global web, Tim Berners-Lee.
The amendment added today obliges the Australian government, among other things, to see to what extent agreements have already been made between the platforms and publishers before the rules apply to a specific company.
In addition, Facebook and Google will have more time for negotiations. The period was three months, and there are two months of mediation.
The agreements result in a PR victory for both parties. Facebook may say that Australia has moved their way with this change and Australia may point out that the social network is still on the table with publishers about payments.
“ All adjustments give the platforms a better starting position in the negotiations,” says Stefan Kulk, Professor of Technology and Law (UU). He thinks the biggest profit for Facebook is probably the fact that the government must first look at what agreements have been made, because they can get them out of the law.
All in all, Kulk thinks that Facebook has achieved a small victory with this. “Because the sharp edges are of the bill.” At the same time, the Australian government has managed to pay for news, he emphasises.
Google has already made arrangements with News Corp, Seven and Nine Entertainment, including many tens of millions. It means that the content of these media parks will be displayed in Google News Showcase. So this is separate from the search results of the tech giant. Facebook is now also talking to publishers.
The payments must therefore help journalism. Although there are also some questions to question, says Deuze. “In the end, it is only vague whether journalism is getting better from this.”
Last week’s escalation led to global attention. Facebook showed what power it has when it comes to it. Nevertheless, Marietje Schaake, former D66 MEP and now Director of Technology Policy at Stanford University, does not think that Facebook will try such an action here in Europe as well. “The EU is a larger market, companies will take this into account with their threats and lobbies.”
There have already been calls from MEPs to apply the Australian model in Europe. Mireille van Eechoud, Professor of Information Law (UvA), points out that legislation is currently being implemented in EU Member States that allow fees and that the rules here are different from those in Australia.
“ Linking and sharing short fragments is excluded from the new rules in Europe,” she says. In addition, there is no arbitration committee in Europe that can ultimately determine what the price will be, here a publisher has to go to court. “Whether it‘s time to say in Europe ‘there needs to be a shovel above‘, I think it’s premature,” says Van Eechoud.
Meanwhile, the Facebook pages of media like The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald are still empty. Although blocking went fast last week, it is now taking Facebook a few days to recover everything.