Google to pay Murdoch's News Corporation for stories

Joanna Estrada
February 18, 2021

The social media giant has banned Australians from sharing or viewing news in their feeds, over the federal government's proposed Media Bargaining Law.

While Google has struck several deals with publishers in recent days, Easton argued that Facebook has a fundamentally different relationship with news.

Australia's government has strongly criticised the move, saying it threatens the "credibility" of the platform. Spokeswoman Mari Melguizo said Facebook was "not able to commence our planned partnerships" with Australian news publishers.

Google and Facebook, which take a combined 81% of online advertising in Australia, have condemned the code as unworkable.

The government has said it is proceeding with the law, which passed parliament's lower house on Wednesday.

The months-long battle has pitted Google and Facebook against the country's entrenched media interests, including those of Murdoch who owns much of Australia's media landscape.

Google had previously attempted to reach a deal with News Corp and Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd but an agreement could not be reached with both parties.

Easton also noted that Facebook drove around 5.1 billion visits to Australian publishers' sites a year ago, worth around AU$407 million. Yet, the same day, Facebook decided it would restrict all news content - both from Australian publishers and global outlets - from appearing on its platforms in the country.

"I hope in the future, we can include news for people in Australia once again", she added.

The content restriction takes effect immediately, and means Australian publishers can not share or post any content on Facebook Pages.

"In to Australia's proposed new Media Bargaining law, Facebook will restrict from sharing or viewing Australian and worldwide news content", wrote William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia & New Zealand in a blog post.

Easton said the public would ask why the platforms were responding differently to the proposed law that would create an arbitration panel to set a price for news in cases where the platforms and news businesses failed to agree.

The American Economic Liberties Project, a Washington-based anti-monopoly group, criticised the move.

"The signs are that the Australian government and Google are close to a compromise", said Paul Budde, an independent media and telecommunications industry analyst.

A Nine spokesman declined comment, while a News Corp representative in Australia was not immediately available for comment. "We will now prioritise investments to other countries". There's speculation that Canada, even the European Union could follow Australia's lead - something Facebook wants to avoid.

"At a time when there are already questions about the credibility of information on Facebook, that is something that they will obviously need to think about".

Visit Business Insider Australia's homepage for more stories.

What Facebook wants to do, however, is call the shots. Although the company was planning to bring Facebook News to Australia and pay publishers more, it was "only prepared to do this with the right rules in place", according to William Easton, Facebook's managing director for Australia and New Zealand.

But that could backfire spectacularly.

Facebook News, the social network's new section dedicated to personalised news content, launched in the United Kingdom last month, allowing users to see curated news stories from major national, local and lifestyle media outlets.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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