Australian publisher calls out government on Facebook, regulator worried

A Facebook logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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SYDNEY, Oct 25 (Reuters) – A small Australian publisher is asking the government to enforce a new law to compel Facebook Inc (FB.O) to negotiate a content deal, prompting the rule’s architect to say he is “concerned “. on the behavior of the social media giant.

Academic publisher The Conversation’s petition, emailed to its readers over the weekend, reflects a wave of concern among smaller Australian media outlets that have failed to strike a deal with Facebook, as required. the new law.

The US internet giant and Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) have been required since March to negotiate with Australian outlets for content that drives traffic and advertising on their websites. If they don’t, the government can resume the negotiation.

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Most major media companies like News Corp (NWSA.O) and the Australian Broadcasting Corp have deals with the two companies, but some independent outlets like The Conversation – as first reported by Reuters – say that they were unfairly rejected. Read more

“The Conversation should be treated no differently than other media outlets,” publisher editor-in-chief Misha Ketchell said in the email to readers, seen by Reuters. “We don’t want to let Facebook off the hook,” he added, calling on readers to sign a petition and write to their local MP to ask that Facebook be “nominated” for intervention.

Facebook has denied the allegations.

“To date, we have signed commercial agreements which will support over 200 newsrooms across the county,” Mia Garlick, director of public policy, Facebook Australia and New Zealand, told Reuters.

“In addition, we are establishing a fund with Country Press Australia to support the digital transformation of regional newsrooms and we have already announced our $15 million Australian News Fund which provides dedicated funding for independent, digital newsrooms and more. small.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who ultimately decides whether intervention is necessary, said the government “expects all parties to work constructively towards concluding trade agreements in the spirit of cooperation and goodwill. faith encouraged by the code”.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims, who oversaw the design of the news media trading code, said the system had been a success, but pointed to Facebook’s refusal to negotiate with The Conversation and foreign language broadcaster SBS.

“Google is still in the process of negotiating and finalizing deals with other news media companies and appears to be approaching this exercise in the right spirit,” Sims said in a statement.

“We’re concerned that Facebook doesn’t currently appear to be taking the same approach.”

A review of the law planned by the federal government next year “will take a close look at the performance of all parties and whether government expectations have been met,” Sims added.

The Conversation’s petition had garnered 7,487 signatures online as of Monday night in Australia, and the publisher said it plans to deliver the total result to the Treasurer in March 2022, when the review is expected to begin.

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Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Jane Wardell and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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