Australia: After deal with Facebook, Senate approves bill amendments

CANBERRA (Reuters) – The Australian Senate on Wednesday approved amendments to Australia’s reform bill requiring internet giants to pay to distribute news content despite criticism that the changes to the text put small businesses at a disadvantage. hurry.

The text must now be examined by the House of Representatives, which should vote soon.

The Australian government introduced changes to its reform bill following Facebook’s decision to block all content from media and several government agencies last week, which garnered international attention.

The American social network announced Tuesday that it would restore the dissemination of press information in Australia after the government’s proposal to amend the bill.

At the origin of the reform project, Rod Sims, director of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), assured Reuters that the text did indeed correct the imbalance in the negotiations between the giants of the Internet and media.

“The changes made by the government are things that don’t really matter or are just meant to clarify things that, at least in Facebook’s mind, weren’t clear,” he said. declared.

“Whatever they (the internet giants, note) say, they need news. It allows people to stay on their platform longer – they make more money.”


That hasn’t stopped Facebook from claiming victory in the battle with the Australian government.

Global News Partnerships vice president for Facebook, Campbell Brown, stressed that the company has retained the ability to decide whether or not information appears on its platform. According to him, the group will also be able to avoid the forced negotiation concerning the payment of the contents of press information which was present in the original text of law.

One of the amendments to the reform bill provides in particular that the Secretary of the Treasury, Josh Frydenberg, will be empowered to decide whether Facebook or Google should be subject to the law or not according to their “contribution to the sustainability of the industry. Australian information. “

The original text called for the two internet giants to submit to arbitration if they failed to strike a business deal with Australian news outlets for the distribution of their content, which would have allowed the government to set a price.

Some politicians and newspaper executives have thus expressed their concerns about the proposed amendments.

“This changes the bill significantly,” Independent Senator Rex Patrick, who plans to vote against the amended bill, told Reuters.

“The big players will be able to negotiate successfully with Facebook or Google. The minister will then not designate them (as being subject to the law) and all the small players will be the losers.”

(Colin Packham, Byron Kaye and Jonathan Barrett, French version Blandine Hénault, edited by Jean-Stéphane Brosse)

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