Australia has reached out to India among several countries, including Canada, France and the UK, in a move to stitch a global coalition against tech giants Google and Facebook amid a faceoff over compensation for sharing news content from media companies on their platforms.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, and later said that they “discussed the progress” on Australia’s “News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020”.
Under the proposed law — News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020 — Australia seeks to mandate a bargaining code that aims to force Google and Facebook to compensate media companies for using their content. The legislation is being closely watched the world over, given that it sets a precedent in regulating social media across geographies.
While Google has agreed to pay news organisations in Australia, Facebook has decided to black out news content from the country on its social networking platform.
From Monday, the Bill will be debated in the Australian Senate, which is expected to adopt the law by the end of the week. It has already been passed by the lower House of Australian Parliament.
Morrison has said that the country’s fight to make Facebook pay for news content could go global as he has had “promising” talks with other world leaders. He said that he has spoken to Modi and Canada’s Justin Trudeau about the ban.
French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are also “watching closely” as Australia battles it out with Facebook, Morrison said.
“Great to talk to my good friend PM @narendramodi again. As Comprehensive Strategic Partners, we can work together on common challenges incl #COVID19, the circular economy, oceans & an open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific. We also discussed progress of our media platform bill,” Morrison tweeted in response to Modi’s tweet which did not mention the proposed law.
Modi had said, “Spoke with my good friend PM @ScottMorrisonMP today. Reiterated our commitment to consolidating our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Also discussed regional issues of common interest. Look forward to working together for peace, prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific.”
It is common for leaders to state their national priorities in their readouts of the same calls. While the media Bill is important for Morrison, Modi had underlined Indo-Pacific as key takeaway, especially with the Foreign Ministers of the Quad grouping holding a meeting.
Ahead of the laws getting passed, Google and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp entered into an agreement earlier his week that will see Google paying NewsCorp for premium content. The deal is being pegged as one of the most extensive agreements between big tech and a media house. Google is also trying to enter into deals with major publishers in the UK, Germany, Brazil and Argentina.
In India, policymakers have so far focused on the dominance of intermediaries such as Google and Facebook, which are positioned in a way that service providers cannot reach customers except through these platforms. However, a substantial discussion on the impact of intermediary platforms on the health of news media outlets is yet to commence in any meaningful way.
Lashing out at Facebook, Morrison said in a post on the platform Thursday: “Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing. I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues.”
He posted: “These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them. They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.”
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