Facebook and the Australian government's agreement on Monday enabling users to share news links on the platform is being closely watched by regulators around the world as a possible model for requiring the social media giant to pay for news content on its site.
According to The Hill, the relationship between the power of tech platforms and the steep decline in news media revenue has become a key issue for lawmakers in the US and abroad, with many proposing changes that would strike at the digital ad market dominance of social media firms.
Facebook last week had blocked user access to news links in Australia in response to legislation making its way through the Australian Senate that would require digital platforms to pay publishers for news content that appears on their sites.
The Hill further reported that if platforms and publishers failed to agree to a price, the process would be punted to a government-led arbitration process that would lock in one of the proposed prices.
The social media outlet will begin letting Australian users share news again in the coming days after an amendment was introduced giving the platform more time to negotiate deals and potentially letting it sidestep the requirements by investing in local journalism instead.
"Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won't automatically be subject to a forced negotiation," Campbell Brown, Facebook's head of news partnerships, said in a statement late Monday night as quoted by The Hill.
Observers say, the agreement after Facebook's initial decision to pull out shows the sway social media platforms hold over efforts to have them pay for news.
"[Facebook] flexed and they used their market power," said Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University, as quoted by The Hill and added, "I hope that other regulators around the world are showing that Facebook can disrupt the news in a way that's not good for the public."
Facebook users were flooded with misinformation about the coronavirus and conspiracy theories about aliens that filled the gap left by traditional media and other trusted sources that were swept up when links to news articles were blocked in Australia.
The American outlet further reported that several other countries are considering rules similar to Australia's that would direct money from social media giants to news outlets.
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who is crafting legislation set to be unveiled later this year, told reporters last week that he would not be deterred by Facebook pulling news links from its platform.
France is one of the countries after it adopted a stringent copyright directive by the European Union and its competition regulator ruled that Google must pay publishers for reusing their content in search results. Google agreed to negotiate licences with French news sites last month.
The Hill further reported that Microsoft announced on Monday that it is partnering with European publishers to develop an arbitration system similar to Australia's across the continent.
The EU and the United Kingdom are both seeking to bring in parts of Australia's system to upcoming laws as well.
However, in the US, such efforts are not being advanced. Senator Maria Cantwell, the new chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has said more ad revenue should be going to news outlets, not social media platforms.
A report produced by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee last year pointed to the dominance of Facebook and Google, saying they have "harmed the quality and availability of journalism".
"But there are currently no proposals in the advanced stages similar to the one in Australia," The Hill reported.
( With inputs from ANI )
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