Fb blocked information tales in Australia whereas Google agreed to pay Information Corp
The Facebook ban prevents posts from Australian publishers from being displayed anywhere in the world and prevents all users in Australia from seeing news content, even from non-Australian publishers. The move apparently caught some government websites posting information on emergencies, fires and weather.
The reaction in Australia has been severe. “Facebook has to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and its standing,” said Australian communications minister Paul Fletcher to the country’s public broadcaster. “You are effectively saying that there will be no information on our platform from organizations that employ paid journalists.”
In a statement on Facebook on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed the tech giants for blocking sites containing important public information. (Facebook has announced that it will restore pages that were “accidentally hit,” local media reported.)
“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today and cut off vital health and rescue information services have been as arrogant as they are disappointing,” said Morrison. “These measures will only confirm concerns that more and more countries are expressing the behavior of big tech companies who believe they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”
Facebook had less to lose than Google – which had threatened to completely shut down its search engine in the country – by further escalating the battle, Johan Lidberg, a media professor at Monash University in Melbourne, said in an email.
“Google also seems to be more in tune with the community and take social responsibility a little more seriously than Facebook,” he said. “There will now be a void of professional, credible journalism on Facebook, and that void could be populated with misinformation and conspiracy theorists.”
Google’s contract with News Corp is part of the News Showcase product, which allows publishers to choose which of their articles will be advertised in specific sections of Google’s apps and search pages. However, the agreements do not apply to messages that have been cataloged by Google and linked in regular search results. This is the most popular way people get news online right now – and something the proposed law would have required if Google hadn’t closed the deal.
Stories from the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Sunday Times and other News Corp publications from the UK and Australia are displayed in dedicated panels in the Google News app, on the Home screen of Search on mobile phones and in Google News on desktop Computers. The deal doesn’t include Fox News, Google spokeswoman Maggie Shiels said. It covers a limited number of countries including Australia, the UK, France and Germany. The companies are in discussions to expand the program to the United States, Shiels said.
Google made similar arrangements with Reuters and regional news companies in the countries it operates, including with another major Australian publisher on Sunday. Companies won’t say how much the deals are worth, but Google has allocated $ 1 billion worldwide for such deals over the next three years.
Google is the latest tech giant to come up with the idea of paying for some news. Apple contracts with publishers who participate in its Apple News Plus service. Facebook also pays certain publishers to post stories on its special Facebook News tab, which is not available in Australia.
Facebook had threatened to block messages from its website if the government passed the new bill, but negotiations on the details in the bill are still ongoing and the government made some changes over the past weekend. That wasn’t enough to calm Facebook down.
The legislation “seeks to penalize Facebook for content that has not been included or requested,” said William Easton, executive director of Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, in a blog post. Unlike Google, which scrapes news pages and inserts links to stories in search results, publishers are willingly choosing to post news on Facebook to get traffic, Easton said.
“We were ready to launch Facebook News in Australia and significantly increase our investment in local publishers, but we were only willing to do it with the right rules,” said Easton, the Facebook executive. “We will now prioritize investments in other countries.”
Google’s deal with News Corp was particularly noteworthy as the news publisher has campaigned against the tech giant over the past several years. In the US, it has pushed state and federal regulators to make changes in the Google-dominated digital advertising industry, which is a major source of income for both companies. Google has raised concerns about a former News Corp advisor advising Texas on its antitrust lawsuit against the search giant.
News Corp is Australia’s largest newspaper publisher and a driving force in lobbying for the new legislation. In a press release, News Corp described the deal as a “historic” success that would result in “substantial” payments to the company.
“For many years we have been accused of tipping on technical windmills,” said Robert Thomson, CEO of News Corp. “But what was a one-off campaign, a quixotic quest, has become a movement, and both journalism and society are strengthened.”
Despite the publisher deals, Google is still officially against the bill, which was passed in the Australian house and passed to the Senate on Wednesday.
The biggest sticking point for Google is that the new law applies to links to news articles in general search results. During its two decades of history, the company has steadfastly refused to pay for the sites it links to, stating that it must be an impartial librarian of the internet and that the concept of a free and open web would collapse if forced would be to start paying.
“The law would unfairly require unknown payments to simply display links to news companies while also giving a special preview of search rankings to a few favorites,” said Kent Walker, Google’s chief global policy manager, in a blog post on Feb.11. “These are not viable solutions and would fundamentally change the Internet.”
News Showcase is Google’s attempt to get around this problem by creating a separate product that looks and feels different from the search results. It’s part of a broader trend at Google to move away from traditional blue links and include more curated content, some of which has been paid for, in search results.
Google’s contracts with news publishers show that the law is working even before it’s officially passed, Australian treasurer and senior cabinet officer Josh Frydenberg told reporters on Wednesday. “None of these deals would take place if we didn’t have the legislation in parliament,” said Frydenberg. “… This world-leading binding code of conduct brings the parties to the table and helps pave the way forward where news media companies are paid to produce original journalistic content.”
Hours later, Facebook announced the ban on message sharing.
“This morning I had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from #Facebook,” Frydenberg said on Twitter. “He addressed some remaining issues with the government news media’s negotiating code and we agreed to continue our conversation in order to find a way forward.”