Facebook’s fight with Australia over the news is just the beginning


Facebook Inc.’s

full board 2.12%

The battle with publishers and regulators around the world over how the social media giant handles the news is far from over after reaching a deal this week with the Australian government to pay for content.

The deal Facebook reached with the Australian government on Tuesday to restore news content on its platform comes as political leaders elsewhere have pledged to increase scrutiny on tech giants and the media also plan to increase the pressure on the company to close deals. The matter also raises questions about which publishers should be paid for news content and how much.

Facebook’s agreement with Australia provides a way to avoid required payments to publishers for news content, as long as the company works to reach agreements with publishers on its own.

“We appreciate that the government has created flexibility to move forward on deals with publishers, while giving us 30 days’ notice prior to an appointment,” said Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships. If Facebook’s negotiations with individual Australian publishers don’t satisfy the government, the company could reimpose its news ban instead of being forced to abide by the terms of the new law to establish payments.

“I’m hopeful that you don’t have to take that step,” Brown said.

The compromise, as envisioned, would be an alternative to the voluntary payments that Facebook has made to “partner” media outlets for its News Tab product for mobile users in the United States and other countries.

The payments Facebook has made to date are not too costly for the company, whose advertising business brought it a record $ 86 billion in revenue last year. News content accounts for just 4% of what people see in their main newsfeed, Facebook said when it announced it would remove news from the platform in Australia last week.

Facebook blocked people in Australia from viewing or sharing news articles while lawmakers debated a bill to force social media companies to pay for content. The legislation is being observed globally and could offer a model for other countries. Photo: Josh Edelson / Getty Images

News publishers trust the audience that Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s

Google delivers. In the hours after Facebook’s decision to discontinue the exchange of news in Australia, news publishers in the country saw traffic from readers outside Australia decline by about 20%, data from analytics firm Chartbeat showed.

About 36% of Americans get their news from Facebook, according to a fall 2020 study by Pew Research, compared to 23% who get it from Alphabet’s YouTube and 15% from Twitter..

If Facebook had to pay for news content globally, the cost would be significant, said Cascend Securities analyst Eric Ross. “Margins disappear when you suddenly have to pay for things that were free,” he said.


Finally, there is a much greater appreciation of the value of credible journalism.


– USA Today Editor Maribel Perez Wadsworth

The uproar between Facebook and Australian news providers comes as he and Google face antitrust lawsuits in the US and regulatory scrutiny elsewhere. Australia and other countries seeking payment for news content on behalf of publishers argue that Facebook is abusing its market power by trying to minimize or avoid such expenses. A 2019 Australian report found that large platforms threatened social media startups, as well as advertisers and the news industry in general.

Both Facebook and Google say that their platforms help journalism. As Facebook itself has pointed out, publishers around the world already seek to maximize the attention their work receives on social media without any promise of compensation.

An American news editor said the Facebook dispute in Australia suggested that the social media company had renewed its interest in paying publishers after previously being reluctant to do so.

“We’re at a turning point,” said Maribel Perez Wadsworth, editor of USA Today, Gannett’s flagship title. Co.

, the largest newspaper chain in the US “Finally, there is a much greater appreciation of the value of credible journalism.”

USA Today participates in the Facebook news tab offering in the US through a license agreement.

News Corp,

owner of The Wall Street Journal, has a business agreement to supply news through Facebook. Last week, the company reached a three-year agreement with Google to license the content of its publication and produce new products for Google platforms.

Australia’s efforts could prompt non-traditional outlets, such as freelance journalists who publish articles on newsroom platforms such as Medium, to demand payments, Bernstein analyst Mark Shmulik said. “The concern is, what if we no longer draw a line in the media conglomerates? … That is a path that Facebook does not want to follow, ”he said.

Earlier this month, Australian officials spoke with their Canadian, German, French and Finnish counterparts about countries setting similar rules on technology platforms that pay news publishers, said Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s minister in charge of the cultural policy, adding that the coalition of countries could expand. overtime.

Guilbeault said he is encouraged by developments in Australia and intends to introduce measures this spring that are supported by his global allies and relevant stakeholders. On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, about possible cooperation in pursuing regulation of online platforms, according to a summary of the conversation released by Trudeau’s office.

“We need to find a solution that is sustainable for news publishers, small and large, digital platforms, and for the health of our democracy,” said Mr. Guilbeault.

The battle over payments to the media has simmered, and sometimes overflowed, in Europe for more than a decade. A new European Union copyright law passed in 2019 and the involvement of antitrust regulators have given the media a new edge by, among other things, creating new copyright control for the media. information on the use of your publications on the Internet by technology companies, except for very brief excerpts and hyperlinks.

In France, the only country to have implemented EU law so far, Google signed licensing agreements for its News Showcase product last November with several publications, including Le Monde. The deals came after a French court reaffirmed an order from the country’s antitrust regulator that Google must negotiate.

Google said it has signed News Showcase deals with more than 500 publications in a dozen countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia. Last October, Google promised $ 1 billion over three years for such licensing deals, but declined to say on Tuesday how much of that amount has been spent.

“We have hundreds of partnerships with news publishers big and small, which makes us one of the biggest sponsors of journalism,” said a Google spokeswoman.

Facebook said that posting your articles in posts on its platform constitutes a license under French law and remains unchanged. Currently, the company only shows links, rather than rich previews, when users post news articles from French posts, unless the post has given Facebook explicit permission.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company is in talks in France and Germany to launch its Facebook News product, which pays for the license for media articles. The product launched last month in the UK with articles from publications such as The Guardian.

Facebook has previously said that it provided hundreds of millions of dollars to posts through its various advertising and subscription tools.

Write to Jeff Horwitz at [email protected] and Sarah E. Needleman at [email protected]

Corrections and amplifications
Facebook generated a record $ 86 billion in revenue last year. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Facebook generated $ 70.7 billion in revenue. (Corrected on February 23)

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