Facebook Says It Will Block News Sharing In Australia If Murdoch's Social Media Tax Becomes Law

from the the-nuclear-option dept

Earlier this year, regulators in Australia announced plans to tax Google and Facebook for sending traffic to news organizations, and then pay those news organization. The draft law literally names Google and Facebook and says that this law only impacts those two companies. The whole thing is bizarre. There are no pretenses here. It’s just that old line media companies (many owned by Rupert Murdoch) are jealous of the success of Google and Facebook online, and seem to think they’re magically owed money. And that’s what the tax would do. It would force Google and Facebook to pay money for the awful crime of sending traffic to news sites without paying them.

Nevermind that if they didn’t want this traffic they could use robots.txt to block it. Nevermind that companies (including many of these media companies) hire SEO and social media experts to try to get more traffic. These companies feel so entitled to money that they feel that Facebook and Google need to pay them for sending traffic, just because.

And Australian regulators seem to think this is a grand idea.

A few weeks back Google posted an open letter to Australians noting that this would do a lot more harm than good, and other parts of the draft law would damage the quality of Google’s search results (among other things, the law wouldn’t let Google make changes to its search algorithms without giving media companies a 4-week notice, which is insane, given that Google tweaks its algorithm multiple times a day).

Now Facebook has gone even further, and outright said that if this becomes law, it will no longer allow publishers to share news on its platform in Australia. This is the nuclear option — similar to what Google did in Spain six years ago when Spain passed a similar law. In that case, Google waited until after the law went into effect to make the announcement and pull the plug.

In this case, Facebook is firing a warning shot by saying that’s exactly what it will do if this draft bill becomes law:

Assuming this draft code becomes law, 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. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia?s news and media sector.

We share the Australian Government?s goal of supporting struggling news organisations, particularly local newspapers, and have engaged extensively with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that has led the effort. But its solution is counterproductive to that goal. The proposed law is unprecedented in its reach and seeks to regulate every aspect of how tech companies do business with news publishers. Most perplexing, it would force Facebook to pay news organisations for content that the publishers voluntarily place on our platforms and at a price that ignores the financial value we bring publishers.

The ACCC presumes that Facebook benefits most in its relationship with publishers, when in fact the reverse is true. News represents a fraction of what people see in their News Feed and is not a significant source of revenue for us.

It’s not like people didn’t warn Australia how all of this would play out (just like people warned various European countries). I don’t know why each one expects a different result.

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Companies: facebook, google

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Comments on “Facebook Says It Will Block News Sharing In Australia If Murdoch's Social Media Tax Becomes Law”

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26 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Time for the 'You can't do that!' amendment

I foresee a quick and panicked scramble as the australiaa politicians rush to add in an amendment making it illegal for Facebook to refuse to host any content that the government deems ‘vital’, likely listing the publishers by name because it’s not like they’ve been subtle as to who’s orchestrating this thing so far.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Koby (profile) says:

It’s not like people didn’t warn Australia how all of this would play out (just like people warned various European countries). I don’t know why each one expects a different result

A few large companies have, in the past, been the targets of frivolous lawsuits, and paid out money to settle, on the basis that it would be cheaper to settle than to fight the court case. In response, some companies (I believe IBM and Newegg are examples) have declared that as a company policy they will no longer settle, and will instead actually pay more money in the short run to fight the cases. They are of course, hoping to discourage future frivolous lawsuits.

Since many places haven’t learned their lesson yet, I say that a number of tech companies ought to declare now that their policy is to refuse to publish articles in any jurisdiction that requires payments for links. Do it now, before the laws are passed. News companies are just doing this for the money grab.

Another Kevin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Saving $50 today only to pay $10 every week afterwards

Going nuclear requires that you have the nuclear weapons.

Far too many business are forced to settle because the up-front cost of defending the suits would bankrupt them. Even if they’re awarded attorneys’ fees, the plaintiffs turn out to be judgment-proof. Retailers are at particularly high risk of this, since they’re all shoestring operations. (Even Amazon has quite a low return on its insane market cap. I don’t know what its speculators – I’m reluctant to call them "investors" – are thinking.)

It’s easy to say, ‘they should have gone down fighting rather than pay the Danegeld’ when it’s not your business at stake.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Like people should be getting their 'news' through Facebook

Frankly you do not understand how Facebook works, It does not peddle news, it lets news sources peddle news on the platform, and promotes the news that its algorithms show to be popular with its users.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Like people should be getting their 'news' through Facebook

"Frankly, I would be rather pleased if Facebook would quit peddling ‘news’ here in America. People would do well to get their news elsewhere."

Your issue is that people think that Facebook is a new source, not that Facebook allows people to share news. Get rid of Facebook, you still have incredulous morons who think that Murdoch’s empire is a news source..

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Like people should be getting their 'news' through Facebook

Facebook doesn’t peddle news. It allows people – including corporate persons – to share things they think others will be interested in.

A lot of the news articles on Facebook were put there by the news corporation’s public relations departments. When someone clicks on one of those news links, they get taken to the news corporation’s website and see the corporation’s ads. None of the news articles you see on Facebook are actually hosted on or created by Facebook

What rock have you been living under that you don’t know this?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Coffee U (profile) says:

Would be interesting to see a day of the Murdoch future

Ugh, it feels wrong to be cheering for google and facebook. But they (and any other’s that would be caught up in this) should coordinate, and choose a day and have their proposed changes live for that day, with links to the people in Aus. about why what’s happening is happening. Similar to the going black www protest against sopa in the us.

People can see what their new normal would be, and they could right to their legislatures and either say, "Yes, more of this!" or "Hey, WTF?"

The same for any other country that attempts legislation forcing cash gifts to legacy companies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Pick a day.

Google and Facebook should pick every day ending in ‘y’ to discontinue news until the ACCC apologises for their stupidity.

Scummy corrupt mafia protection ring masquerading as a competition regulator. You can just look at what they did to TPG/Vodafone to protect the mobile phone duopoly from serious competition.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
mvario (profile) says:

The same around the world

"It’s not like people didn’t warn Australia how all of this would play out (just like people warned various European countries). I don’t know why each one expects a different result."

It’s the same around the world, politicians and leaders are beholden to to corporate interests, in this case the media. Even if they know better, when the money talks, they respond.

Anonymous Coward says:

This law is is strict if Google can’t go reach an agreement with the media they will have to go to an abritator who will chose what the payment rate is, based on a final offer by Google and the media, newspapers, I doubt if Google will cease all services in Australia to avoid this law.
It left China.

Facebook could just block all links to news on Facebook Australia.
Their income comes from selling ads, they can afford to drop news in one country.
If this works will other country’s follow Australia’s example.
I don’t think Facebook wants to be giving data on why its feed works to other media company’s.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

" I doubt if Google will cease all services in Australia to avoid this law."

They’ll have to. Indexing links brings no revenue to google. If providing a service for free means they lose money then they’ll have to abandon Australia.

The same will hold true for ANY other search engine.

This will hurt australia since Google won’t have offices open there, offer services directly to australian corporations, or maintain the google .au domain.

It won’t hurt google since all any aussie citizen needs to do to use google is to use googles .com domain instead.

In summary Google only has to do what they did in Spain and Germany. In fact Google can survive unscathed as long as one single nation in the world doesn’t adhere to inane "link tax" lunacy. The same does not hold true for nations dumb enough to impose such a tax.

Anonymous Coward says:

Scotty from Marketing and the Marketingettes sold their souls and arse cheeks to The Rupert years ago. Look what they did with the NBN to appease him. Look at the $882 million "tax rebate" that the mad monk gave to him shortly after being elected in 2013. Look at the $50 odd million they gave to him to "boost" sport and women’s sport on Farcetel.

So it’s no surprise that the LNP is once again bending over and parting their cheeks for The Murdoch.

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