The author of proposed Australian laws to get Facebook and Google to pay for journalism said on Thursday that his draft legislation will be amended to allay some of the digital giants’ concerns but remain fundamentally unchanged.
Australia’s fair trade regulator Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said he would give his final draft of the laws to get Facebook and Google to pay Australian media companies for the news content they use at the beginning of October.
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Facebook has warned that it may be blocking Australian news content rather than paying for it.
Google has said the proposed laws would result in “dramatically poorer Google search and YouTube,”
Sims said he is discussing the draft of his bill with U.S. social media platforms. It could be introduced in Parliament at the end of October.
“Google has concerns about it, some of it is that they just don’t like it, others are things we’ll be happy to work with them on,” Sims told a webinar hosted by The Australia Institute, an independent thinking -thank.
“We are making changes to address some of these issues – not all, but some,” Sims said.
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Among the concerns is a fear that news outlets under the so-called News Media Bargaining Code “will be able to somehow control their algorithms,” Sims said.
“We want to engage with them and clarify it so that there is no way that news media companies can disrupt the algorithms from Google or Facebook,” Sims said.
He said he would also clarify that the platforms do not need to reveal more data about users than they already share.
“There’s nothing in the code that forces Google or Facebook to share data from individuals,” Sims said.
Sims was not willing to negotiate the “core” of the code, which he described as “the limbits that hold the code together that make it usable.”
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These included an arbitrator to tackle the bargaining imbalance between the tech giants and the news outlets. If a platform and a news committee cannot reach an agreement on price, an arbitrator is appointed to make a binding decision.
Another key aspect was a non-discrimination clause to prevent the platforms from prioritizing Australia’s state – owned Australian Broadcasting Corp. and Special Broadcasting Service, whose news content remains free.
Sims said he did not know if Facebook would respond to the threat and block Australian news, but he suspected it would weaken the platform to do so.
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Spain and France and have both failed to get Facebook and Google to pay for news through copyright law. Sims said he has talked about Australia’s approach through fair trade laws to regulators in the US and Europe.
“They’re all struggling with the same problem,” Sims said