Facebook warned Monday that it will prevent people in Australia from sharing news on its platform if the Australian government moves forward with a plan to force both it and Google to pay news organizations for content shared on their platforms.
The announcement comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released its plan for a mandatory code of conduct in late July. Under the plan, news organizations can negotiate with Google and Facebook over payments for their content — and if the groups can't reach an agreement after a three-month process, "an independent arbitrator would choose which of the two parties' final offer is the most reasonable within 45 business days."
Australia's Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said Facebook and Google could be forced to pay "substantial penalties" of hundreds of millions of dollars if they fail to adhere to the policy, according to the BBC.open letter, Google Australia claimed the regulation "could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses." In the letter, Google Australia also alleged "The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses — news media businesses — over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business."
Under the proposal, media companies producing content that "investigates and explains issues of public significance for Australians; issues that engage Australians in public debate and inform democratic decision-making; or issues relating to community and local events," would be eligible for the negotiations. The organizations must also meet "minimum levels of professional editorial standards," maintain editorial independence, operate in Australia, and generate more than $150,000 AUD per year.
The government said in July that the plan is designed to address the "acute bargaining power imbalances between Australian news businesses and Google and Facebook."
"News content brings significant benefits to the digital platforms, far beyond the limited direct revenue generated from advertising shown against a news item," commission chair Rod Sims said in the summary of the proposal. "News media businesses should be paid a fair amount in return for these benefits."
Caitlin O'Kane contributed reporting.