Why Australia may be looking at a life without Google
Facebook Inc. has started restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing news on its platform, escalating a fight over a proposed law that would require the company to pay media companies.
Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have pushed back on an Australian proposal to force them to pay publishers for the value their articles generate on their digital platforms. News outlets have demanded such payments, arguing they should be fairly compensated for their journalism as Google and Facebook capture much of the advertising market.
While they oppose the measure in Australia, Google and Facebook have struck voluntary agreements to pay publishers. Earlier Wednesday, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., a supporter of the Australian proposal, said it had reached a deal with Google in which the search giant will pay for journalism from the Wall Street Journal and its other newspapers.
Last summer, Facebook had threatened to block people and publishers in Australia from sharing news on Facebook and Instagram if the legislation were to become law. Google has similarly threatened to shut its search engine in Australia.
On Wednesday, Facebook tried to draw a contrast with Google, arguing that publishers don’t voluntarily provide articles that appear in Google search results, while they willingly post news on Facebook, which helps them reach a larger audience.
The Australian proposal penalizes Facebook “for content it didn’t take or ask for,” William Easton, managing director for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, said in a blog post Wednesday.
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” he said. “It has left us facing a stark choice: Attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”
Publishers already reap tangible benefits from links on Facebook, Easton said. Last year, Facebook generated about 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers, worth an estimated A$407 million (US$315 million), he said, without providing a basis for the calculation.