It is often said how social media has become the new way news spreads, sometimes even more quickly, but few actually consider the money involved there. From clicks to page views to ads, companies like Facebook and Google have perhaps taken the lion’s share of advertising profits, even when the content surfaced on their platforms come from other sources like news outlets. A new law in Australia is being proposed to shift the balance of power to those news outlets and Facebook is pretty much threatening to remove Australian’s ability to share news on the network should that come to pass.
Like anything involving money, laws, and advertising, the situation isn’t as clear cut as it sounds. On the one hand, it’s hard to deny how news outlets around the world, not just in Australia, are already struggling to make ends meet while adjusting to the new Internet-centric world order. On the other hand, there are many publishers and lawmakers that seem to want to apply traditional business models in ways no longer apt for a digital world.
The latter is what Facebook is decrying about the proposed law in Australia that would force the social media giant as well as Google to negotiate revenue-sharing agreements with publishers. Furthermore, the law would not allow companies to back out of such arbitration or remove local Australian news in retaliation. What Facebook says it will be forced to do, however, is far more disruptive.
The social media network explains that it won’t really have any choice but to block not only Australian publishers but also Australian users from sharing both local and international news on the platform, effectively removing any and all news from Facebook Australia. It is practically staying away from news completely in order not to be pulled into any legal requirement to negotiate those terms with publishers.
This isn’t the first time Facebook and Google have faced such legal threats but it could turn out to be the biggest precisely because the law would give them no way to back out of the arrangement. Google faced similar laws in Europe but cutting off local publishers from its search engines proved to be nearly fatal to the very publishers that the laws aimed to protect. Now governments and media companies around the world are waiting to see if Australia will succeed in bringing these companies to their knees or if it will eventually fold as well to stop publishers from bleeding because of it.