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Lousy Australian Media Law Leads to Media Shutout on Facebook

Feb. 19 , 2021 (EIRNS)—On Feb. 17, the Australian House of Representatives passed, with wide political support, a media bargaining code under which social media companies would negotiate terms for the use of summaries, snippets, and even links to content from Australian news companies. This legislation, far from being able to achieve its supposed aims of supporting the financial viability of traditional journalism and promoting diversity of media output, would have benefitted only the largest media outlets, providing them with what would essentially be a subsidy generated by charging the social media giants, by compelling them to establish revenue-sharing deals with news corporations approved by government authorities and bringing in an annual revenue of at least A$150,000.

Where would this leave independent media? And among all the sites and content shared on Facebook, Google, etc., what makes the sharing of news content so uniquely valuable? Technology commentator Benedict Evans points out: “Very little of the traffic on Google or Facebook comes from news, and very little advertising (and less with much value) appears next to news search results.” Should joke websites also benefit from revenue-sharing? How about sites dedicated to recipes, hairstyles, pet tricks, basketball, movies, or science?

While Google reached a deal with Australian media giants Seven West Media and News Corp, Facebook simply pulled the plug on media content from Australia, shared by Australians, or to be viewed in Australia.

Although it is tempting to portray Facebook as the villain here—due to its many acts of villainy—the Australian law is an attempt to prop up legacy news media through money siphoned from big tech companies, in a way that benefits the legacy news media, most certainly does not support alternative media, and would include under its ambit even the simple sharing of raw links.

Regulation of big tech is necessary, but the Australian legislation is not a model.

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