Facebook threatened Tuesday to prevent users and Australian media from sharing stories if a bill is passed to force digital giants to pay for content provided by news organizations.
Australians would no longer have the right to relay national or international information on Facebook or Instagram, said the American firm, saying that this decision is “the only way to protect against a consequence which defies all logic”.
Australian Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenbergs immediately rejected the “heavy threats” posed by Facebook, even speaking of “coercion”.
Rod Sims, the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who drafted the bill, called the threat “untimely and ill-conceived.”
Code of conduct
Canberra unveiled a draft “binding code of conduct” at the end of July that would oblige the giants that dominate the Internet, foremost among them Google and Facebook, to pay Australian media, in great financial difficulty, for their content.
This code provides for the transparency of the algorithms used to develop the order of appearance of the content as well as penalties reaching several million euros in the event of infringement.
The proposed law “ignores the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to media outlets that the government is trying to protect,” said Will Easton, chief executive of Facebook in the region.
“The most confusing thing is that this would force Facebook to pay press groups for the content they voluntarily place on our platforms and at a price ignoring the financial value we bring them,” he lamented in a statement.
He also accused the ACCC of “ignoring important facts” during the consultation process that ended on Monday.
“The ACCC assumes that Facebook benefits the most from its relationship with news groups when in reality it is the other way around,” he said.
“News is a fraction of what people see on their feed and it’s not a big source of income for us,” said Easton.
He also said the firm had prepared the Australian launch of “Facebook News”, a news feed fed by professional journalists.
“Instead, we are given the choice between withdrawing the information entirely or accepting a system that allows news groups to charge us for as much content as they want at a price without specific limits,” he said. added.
Google has also counterattacked by creating “pop-ups” on search engines claiming “that the way Australians use Google is threatened” and by prompting “youtubers” around the world to complain to the Australian authorities.
The bill, due to be passed this year, targets the two richest and most powerful tech firms, Facebook and Google, in the first place, but could in the long run apply to any digital platform.
This initiative is being followed closely around the world at a time when the media are suffering in a digital economy where advertising revenues are increasingly captured by the giants of the web.