Tim Berners-Lee expresses concern over Australian press code of conduct

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee has discussed the “binding code of conduct” for news media that Australia wants to legislate, sharing concerns that the new text might violate a fundamental principle of the web.

The project, which has been heavily criticized by GAFA, is necessary, according to the government, to address fundamental imbalances between Australian news media companies and major digital platforms.

Originally intended to apply on the basis of consent, it was clear, according to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, that the code needed to be made mandatory, because “it was impossible to make deals that would charge digital platforms for original journalistic content ”. Also, “these digital platforms were essential business partners for traditional media companies”, defended Josh Frydenberg at a press conference announcing the entry of the code in Parliament at the end of December.

Requiring payment for links contradicts a principle of the web

The draft “binding code of conduct” introduces a framework that aims to allow the conclusion of commercial agreements between traditional news media with Google and Facebook. The revised code contains the idea of ​​a “two-way exchange of values”, while Josh Frydenberg asserts that “the money will flow only one way” and that it is in the hands of the media outlets. He announced that he would establish a set of minimum standards that digital platforms should adhere to.

“I am concerned that the code risks violating a fundamental principle of the web by requiring payment for links between certain online content,” warns Tim Berners-Lee in a document written for the attention of the Economic Commission of the Australian Senate, which is considering the bill.

He reminds us that, on the web, content sharing is based on the ability of users to do two things: create content (generally text) and create links in this content to other parts of the web. “This is consistent with human discourse in general, in which there is a right, and often a duty, to make references,” he said, taking example from academic articles, journalists referring to sources, and bloggers including links to other blogs.

“Before search engines were effective on the web, following links from page to page was the only way to find material. “

“Links are fundamental for the web”

Tim Berners-Lee points out that search engines make this process much more efficient, but they can only do it by using the web’s link structure as their primary entry. “Links are fundamental to the web,” he writes. “As I understand it, the proposed code is intended to require certain selected digital platforms to negotiate and possibly pay to link to topical content from a particular group of news providers. Charging a royalty for a web link blocks an important aspect of the value of web content. “

He indicates that the ability to connect freely and without monetary exchange is “fundamental for the functioning of the web, its development so far and its growth in the decades to come”.

Tim Berners-Lee warns that if such a precedent were followed elsewhere, it could render the web unusable around the world. “I therefore respectfully ask the committee to remove this mechanism from the code,” he concludes.

Source: .com

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