Google Asked by Indian Newspaper Society to Compensate for Using Their Content, Raise Ad Revenue Share


The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) on Thursday asked Google to compensate Indian newspapers for using their content and insisted that the global search giant increase the publisher share of advertising revenue to 85 percent. In a letter to Google, INS president L Adimoolam said publishers are also facing a very opaque advertising system, as they are unable to get details of Google”s advertising value chain.

“The Society insisted that Google should increase the publisher share of advertising revenue to 85 percent, and also ensure more transparency in the revenue reports provided to publishers by Google,” the INS said in a statement. It noted that, over the past year publishers across the world have been raising the issue of fair payment for content and of proper sharing of advertising revenue with Google. It is also noted that Google has recently agreed to better compensate and pay publishers in France, the European Union and notably in Australia.

In a letter addressed to Google India’s country manager Sanjay Gupta, the INS president demanded that Google should pay for news generated by the newspapers which employ thousands of journalists on the ground, at considerable expense, for gathering and verifying information. “Since, the content which is generated and published by newspapers at considerable expense is proprietary, the Society pointed out that it is this credible content which has given Google the authenticity in India ever since its inception,” the INS said.

ALSO READ: Google, Facebook Should Enable Revenue Sharing for News in India Too, After Australia

It pointed out that publishers have been providing complete access to “quality journalism with credible news, current affairs, analysis, information and entertainment”, and “there is a huge distinction between the editorial content from quality publications and fake news that is spreading on other information platforms”.

Further, it was also pointed out that advertising has been the financial backbone of the news industry. However, newspaper publishers are seeing their share of the advertising pie shrinking in the digital space, even as Google is taking a “giant share of advertising spends”, leaving publishers with a small share, it said. The INS also raised the issue of giving greater prominence to editorial content from Registered News Publishers to tackle fake news, as Google picks up content from several sites that are not credible, thus “amplifying misinformation and propagation of fake news”.

ALSO READ: Australian Parliament Passes Media Bill That Forces Google, Facebook to News Outlets for Content

Pointing out that the Society is engaged in discussions with Google on these vital issues, the letter also reiterated that “Indian print media is the most credible source of news and information in the country, and newspapers play a vital role in nation building. However, the pandemic and the current digital business model have been unfair to publishers, making it unviable for the print media industry. We invest heavily on journalism, the core of our news operations, because newspapers play a vital role in society.”





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American Airlines pilot reports close encounter with ‘fast-moving cylindrical object’


The pilot of an American Airlines flight from Cincinnati to Phoenix reported a close encounter with a “long cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile” at about 11,000 metres.

The incident involving Flight 2292 occurred on Sunday when the Airbus A320 was flying at 650km/h above a remote expanse west of Des Moines, The Drive reported.

Steve Douglass, an experienced radio interceptor, told the outlet’s The War Zone that he heard the pilot’s bizarre transmission while recording from his multiple scanners.

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In the call, the pilot is heard telling air traffic control in Albuquerque about a mysterious object.

“Do you have any targets up here? We just had something go right over the top of us,” he says.

“I hate to say this but it looked like a long cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing – moving really fast right over the top of us,” he adds.

Douglass said on his blog that “no reply was monitored by Albuquerque Center because local (Amarillo) air traffic walked on top of it. AAL 2292 was near flight level 370 (37,000 feet) at the time of the report.”

He added that “no significant military aircraft presence” was reported in the area.

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The Drive noted that the incident was similar to one that occurred in the same area almost three years ago, when a Learjet and an airliner both had close encounters with an unidentified object.

The pilot of the Learjet, who was flying for military contractor Phoenix Air, described the off encounter to local news outlets, The Drive reported.

US navy flyers also reported similar encounters off the eastern seaboard in the past several years, according to the outlet.

It was unlikely an errant test missile could have ventured into the commercial airspace – and it was also highly improbable the object was some kind of clandestine aircraft, The Drive noted.

The Mount Dora Military Operating Area is located near where the American Airlines crew observed the object, but the pilots would have been alerted that the restricted airspace was “hot,” the outlet reported.

In October 2017, The War Zone reported that F-15s were scrambled to investigate an object that several airline crews reported over Northern California and Oregon.

The Drive said it has reached out to the FAA and American Airlines for comment about the latest mystery.

This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission



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Facebook agrees to restore news after talks with government


Facebook has agreed to restore news for its Australian users in the coming days after holding discussions with the federal government.

The social media giant dramatically escalated its fight with the government last week, barring Australians from accessing news sites on the platform.

The move came as part of Facebook’s fight against the Federal government’s media bargaining code, which would force tech giants to pay news outlets for news content accessed on their platforms.

But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has confirmed Facebook would walk back the measure after holding constructive talks.

“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” he said in a statement.

The government confirmed on Tuesday it would introduce further amendments to the code, which has been met with fierce resistance by Google and Facebook.

They included a measure that would ensure whether a tech giant had “made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry” would be factored in before they were designated under the code.

“The amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms,” Mr Frydenberg.

The government has encouraged tech giants to strike deals with news outlets outside of the code, a call met by Google, which reached a flurry of arrangements with major Australian outlets last week.

But Facebook last week carried out its threat to remove news altogether from the platform, arguing it fundamentally undermined the way its platform operated.

“(The plan) 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,” it said.

“With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Mr Frydenberg criticised the move as “unnecessary heavy-handed”, saying the government remained committed to legislating the code.

But said he remained optimistic Facebook would return to the table.



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Facebook news ban lifted in Australia


Facebook has lifted its ban on news after it blocked Australian users from sharing or viewing local or international news content, as a protest against paying for news.

The pages will return in coming days, and are as a result of ongoing discussions between the company’s boss Mark Zuckerberg and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

The tech giant has called a truce with the Morrison government, which is hopeful Facebook will now move quickly to sign commercial deals with news businesses.

Its move to ban news followed the passage of the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.

Mr Frydenberg has now reached an agreement with Facebook to amend the law – after days of negotiations with Mr Zuckerberg – which is expected to pass the parliament this week.

The changes will make it clear that the Treasurer’s decision to designate a platform to force it to negotiate with news outlets will depend on whether the platform has already reached commercial agreements with them.

Platforms will also be given one month’s notice if the government does intend to designate them under the code.

Facebook’s Australian chief Will Easton said the company was pleased to reach a deal.

“We have consistently supported a framework that would encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers,” he said.

“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.”

“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.”

The multibillion-dollar tech giant shocked its 17 million local users with the sweeping bans last week that impacted emergency services, TV stations, charities, state government departments, satire sites and music bands.

Facebook was forced to reinstate the posts of government pages, including health departments and weather services, after the ban wiped posts with essential information.

Efforts in Australia to make Google and Facebook pay for news has garnered worldwide attention, creating what some call a defining moment for the web and for journalism, and even a litmus test for democracy.

The European Commissioner for digital services, who is helping draw up new EU rules for online business, backed Australia in its dispute with web giant Facebook on Monday.

Thierry Breton, Brussels’ top official for the EU internal market, said Facebook had been wrong to kick Australian media off its service in a row about paying for news.

Separately, US tech titan Microsoft joined European media in calling for EU members states to follow Australia in setting up a mechanism to ensure that news publishers are paid.

The European Union has also passed a rule requiring internet “gatekeepers” like Google or Facebook to negotiate fees for including news stories and links.



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Senior executive hints at what’s to come


After prohibiting Australian users from accessing news on Facebook, a senior executive at the social media company has apologised for the execution of the ban which also wiped the pages of government organisations, charities and other community pages.

This comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the tech bohemoth is “back at the table” and willing to negotiate after its “completely indefensible” actions.

“Those actions were completely indefensible. We appreciate the apology. Now let’s get on with discussion and come to a successful conclusion,” he told media on Saturday.

“We are no strangers in taking the lead on this and we are pleased Facebook is tentatively friending us again.”

Speaking to theSydney Morning Herald, Facebook’s vice-president of public policy for the Asia-Pacific region, Simon Milner said the future of the news ban will be dictated by the federal government’s next steps. This comes as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed he was in crisis talks with the Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

“This is a really hard thing to do. We’ve never done it before. We are sorry for the mistakes we made in some of the implementation,” said Mr Milner.

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Key criticism of the ban originated from the fact that hundreds of non-publisher pages were also removed in the ban. In response to their mistake, Facebook is now using human reviewers to manually return the feeds of non newsites, with the pages of key organisations like the Bureau of Meteorology, SA Health, Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA and Queensland Health restored.

“There’s still some pages that we’re looking at but some of it’s really difficult in that the law isn’t clear and therefore there may be some pages that were clearly not news but actually under the law they might be,” continued Mr Milner. “That’s one of the challenges for us. We’re sorry for the mistakes that we made on that front.”

Facebook’s dramatic plan is in retaliation to the federal government’s proposed Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code which would force Google and Facebook to pay news outlets for using their content. Currently the laws would only apply to Facebook’s News Feed and Google’s Search services, however other platforms could also be added to the list at a later date.

However in the hours after Facebook launched their dramatic, and highly criticised strategy, Google announced they had secured advertising deals with Nine Entertainment, Seven West Media and Newscorp. The arrangements means publishers would receive “significant payments” in order for their content to be featured on Google’s News Showcase product. Similar agreements are also expected to be struck with other Australian publishers like the ABC, Daily Mail Australia and the Guardian Australia.

And although Mr Morrison said Facebook may be willing to show some leeway, they’ve yet to backtrack or apologise for their unprecedented news shutdown. Releasing a statement on the news ban on Thursday, they criticised the proposed law for “fundamentally” failing to understand how their services work.

“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,” wrote the Managing Director of Facebook Australia & New Zealand, William Easton. “With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Mr Easton also accused the Australian Government for penalising Facebook for “content it didn’t take or ask for”.

“Over the last three years we’ve worked with the Australian Government to find a solution that recognises the realities of how our services work,” he continued. “We’ve long worked toward rules that would encourage innovation and collaboration between digital platforms and news organisations.”

Its detractors however stated the ban’s long-term impact could see the site face long term damage, including the potential for class-action lawsuits and prosecution from the hundreds of charities, groups and government agencies caught in its battle with publishers.

Writing a piece for The Conversation, a media and communications lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology Diana Bossio said Australians will view Facebook’s move in context with its past scandals of user privacy breaches and misinformation.

“The reputational damage from blocking important sites that serve Australia’s public interest overnight … undermines the legitimacy of the platform and its claimed civic intentions,” she wrote.

“Facebook’s actions may send a message to the government, but they will also send one to their Australian users.”



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What it means, why are users blocked from reading and sharing content


Facebook is blocking Australian users from reading and sharing news.

The shock move by Facebook comes with Australia poised to adopt legislation that would force digital platforms to pay for news content.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Facebook’s decision to stop Australian publishers and users from sharing or viewing news content sends a strong message about its credibility.

“Facebook needs to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing,” Mr Fletcher told the ABC.

“They’re effectively saying, on our platform, there will not be any information from organisations which employ paid journalists, which have fact checking processes, editorial policies. They’re effectively saying any information that is available on our site does not come from these reliable sources.”

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Facebook’s Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton announced the ban in a statement dated Wednesday.

Facebook said it had been left with a choice between attempting to comply with a law it thinks “ignores the realities” of the relationship between it and news publishers, or to simply stop allowing the content altogether.

This is what it means for you:

WHAT IF I WANT TO READ OR SHARE AUSTRALIAN NEWS?

There’s nothing stopping you going directly to the website of an Australian news site to read their content, you just won’t see it on Facebook anymore, or be able to share articles on your timeline to discuss them with your friends. It’s likely you can still send them in direct or group messages on Facebook platforms such as Messenger and WhatsApp.

WHAT IF I WANT TO READ OR SHARE INTERNATIONAL NEWS?

If you’re outside of Australia you can still post links from international news sources but not from Australian ones. If you share this content it won’t be seen in Australia.

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HOW IS FACEBOOK ENFORCING THIS?

Australian users won’t be able to post links featuring the URL of any news outlets, while international users are banned from sharing links with the URL of any Australian news outlets. Facebook uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to police its site, including to perform early level content moderation. This isn’t always a perfect system, as Thursday morning’s implementation of the ban has shown.

Non-news pages, including Harvey Norman, the Betoota Advocate, the ACTU and two random biking related pages have been caught up in the ban too.

Given this change targets specific URLs and doesn’t require the interpretation of content to see if it complies with the site’s guidelines, it’s unlikely Facebook will have much trouble keeping the links off its platform, but it remains to be seen how other pages that shouldn’t be included in the ban are dealt with.

Facebook’s local representatives didn’t know why the pages were being caught up in the ban when contacted by news.com.au on Thursday morning.

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WHY IS FACEBOOK BANNING NEWS NOW?

The House of Representatives is currently considering a bill that would amend Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act to establish a mandatory code of conduct that applies to news media and digital platforms when bargaining in relation to news content that appears on the platforms, with a specific focus on Facebook and Google.

That proposed code came after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platforms Inquiry showed that Facebook and Google dominated the digital advertising market in Australia.

The ACCC also found Google and Facebook were “unavoidable business partners for media companies to both access an audience for their content and secure advertising revenue”.

The Government “accepted the overriding conclusion that there was a need for reform” and committed to “address bargaining power concerns” between the platforms and publishers by tasking the ACCC to develop a voluntary code of conduct.

In April last year, due to a lack of progression in the creation of the voluntary proposed code, it was upgraded to a mandatory one.

The Bill before parliament claims the mandatory code of conduct will “help support the sustainability of the Australian news media sector by addressing bargaining power imbalances”.

In effect this means the platforms would have to pay the news publishers for their content.

Facebook disagrees and argues that “the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favour of the publishers — which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume”.

The company claims news content makes up less than four per cent of the content people see on Facebook, and argues that it referred more than five billion pairs of eyeballs to local publishers, which it “estimated” was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

GOOGLE IS PLAYING BALL, SO WHY NOT FACEBOOK?

The new code has a specific focus on Google and Facebook as they are the two companies that dominate the digital advertising market, with huge amounts of data they can use to target ads at you.

After threatening to shut down Australian services (to the delight of Microsoft which quickly showed enthusiasm to replace Google with Bing), Google has been shaking hands and signing papers all week with major news publishers in Australia, inking deals worth tens of million a year with Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment, and News Corp (publisher of this website) for content to appear in Google’s News Showcase product.

Google pledged last year to spend $US1bn ($A1.29 billion) over three years on news content.

Other deals with the ABC and the Guardian are reportedly “in eleventh-hour negotiations”.

But Facebook argues it is not the same as Google and the pair “have fundamentally different relationships with news”.

“Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content. On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue.”

Google disputes that. Its “public search liaison” Danny Sullivan tweeted in response to “clarify” Facebook’s point and explain publishers do have a choice of whether or not to appear in Google Search and News.

The company argued it was prepared to launch its own competitor to Google’s News Showcase in Australia, which would come with significantly increased investment in local publishers, but would only do so “with the right rules in place”.

ABSURD SITES CAUGHT IN FACBOOK BAN – INCLUDING FACEBOOK

Facebook’s news ban is already in effect on Thursday morning and it’s not just news sites that are being blocked from sharing content – the ban is also impacting a variety of non-news pages, including Facebook’s own.

Among the pages that are now showing a message reading “no posts yet” as of Thursday morning, is Facebook’s own.

The Bureau of Meteorology has also been blocked in the ban, as has the ACTU and the Queensland Health page.

SA Health and the ACT government’s page are also empty, and the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services has been scrubbed too.

SIGN FACEBOOK COULD BACKFLIP ON BAN

While many Australians have reacted with fury, there’s a clear sign Facebook could soon backtrack on the Australian news ban.

That hidden clue is buried in the last line of the tech giants lengthy public statement announcing the move.

“We hope that in the future the Australian government will recognise the value we already provide and work with us to strengthen, rather than limit, our partnerships with publishers,” it wrote.



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Cambridge Analytica, psychological tests, 2016 US election


Facebook’s bombshell decision to ban Australian news from the platform sent shockwaves across the world today.

But it’s just the latest in a string of explosive scandals to hit the social media giant in recent years, which have caused the tech juggernaut’s spectacular fall from grace.

While Facebook has long enjoyed its status as one of the world’s most popular platforms, countless users are growing increasingly frustrated by the site following fiasco after fiasco.

As a result, trust in the network has been seriously eroded – and the latest ban threatens to devastate its already-shattered reputation even further.

Here are just some of the biggest bombshells to hit Facebook in recent years.

PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS

In 2014, Facebook faced its first major backlash after it was revealed it had secretly carried out psychological tests on almost 700,000 unwitting users back in 2012.

The experiment involved manipulating people’s news feeds and studying how the tweaks affected their emotional reaction to posts.

Facebook was forced to apologise once the news broke, with chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg weighing in after a study claimed the discovery was “the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks”.

“This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated,” she said.

“And for that communication we apologise. We never meant to upset you.”

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CONTENT REMOVAL

Within two years, Facebook had landed in hot water once again, this time over the censorship of a number of images and videos including a famous Vietnam War picture and clips of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

Facebook later backtracked after facing intense scrutiny.

“After hearing from our community, we looked again at how our Community Standards were applied in this case,” Facebook said in a statement about the removal and subsequent reinstatement the “Napalm Girl” photograph, adding it recognised “the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time”.

2016 ELECTION FURY

In the same year, following Donald Trump’s surprise election victory, Facebook was also dragged over the coals over the role it potentially played in the results.

The platform was accused of spreading mass misinformation, and in 2017 it was revealed that hundreds of likely Russian fake Facebook accounts spent around $A125,000 on ads during the election campaign.

The social network admitted to receiving $US100,000 from “fake news” spreaders who aimed to stir up controversial topics such as same sex marriage, immigration, gun control and race relations.

And a damning BuzzFeed investigation also found that during the last three months of the campaign, “the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others.”

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CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA

However, Facebook’s reputation arguably took its biggest battering in 2018 during the Cambridge Analytica debacle, which landed CEO Mark Zuckerberg before Congress.

In a nutshell, the scandal involved the selling of tens of millions of Facebook users’ personal data to political data firm Cambridge Analytica, without their consent, with the information later used to influence voter behaviour during the 2016 US election (although the breach was not known at the time).

Facebook was ultimately slapped with a $5 billion fine over the fiasco, which was the largest data scandal in its history.

GENOCIDE LINKS

2018 was Facebook’s annus horribilis, with the platform also being used to incite genocide against the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

The firm launched an independent investigation into the tragedy, and owned up to its mistakes.

“The report concludes that, prior to this year, we weren’t doing enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence,” Facebook said in statement at the time.

“We agree that we can and should do more.”

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LEAKED DOCUMENTS

Then, in 2019, NBC News obtained and released thousands of pages of leaked internal documents which revealed Facebook’s plan to grow ever-powerful, including a strategy of using users’ data as a bargaining tool to wield against rivals and help out allies.

“Facebook ultimately decided not to sell the data directly but rather to dole it out to app developers who were considered personal ‘friends’ of Zuckerberg or who spent money on Facebook and shared their own valuable data,” the publication revealed.

REPUTATION IN TATTERS
Today’s Australian news ban is another nail in the coffin of the company, with countless local users vowing to boycott the site in the wake of the bombshell.

Many have accused Facebook of bullying tactics, with experts including Swinburne University’s Belinda Barnet pointing out the decision to pull news from the site in the midst of the lethal coronavirus crisis was particularly shocking.

“I think Australians may lose trust in the platform,” she told ABC News on Thursday afternoon.

“It doesn’t seem that the platform has our best interests at heart, the fact that it could do this at this particular moment in time is evidence of this.”



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News Media Bargaining Code that angered Facebook into blocking Australian news


Australians woke up unable to access and share news content on Facebook, as the big tech giant laid bare its power by carrying out a threat it first made months ago.

The decision, which came as a shock to many, came after three years of anger from big tech over the federal government’s proposed Mandatory Media Bargaining Code.

The code, which would force Google and Facebook to pay news outlets for content, would be the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

But with the plan set to become law this week, Facebook has blocked Australian users from accessing news sites, and pages containing vital public safety information.

Overseas Facebook users are no longer able to access Australian news sites.

RELATED: Google strikes $30m deal with Nine with bargaining code in parliament

In a statement on Thursday, Facebook claimed it was left with no option but to take extreme action.

“(The plan) 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,” it read.

“With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg held crisis talks with Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg this morning, but the government is refusing to back down.

POWER IMBALANCE: WHAT BROUGHT ABOUT THE LAWS

The government believes digital platforms have fundamentally shifted the way media content is produced and accessed.

It says tech giants Google and Facebook wield too much power over the market, benefiting from journalism that appears on their platforms without fairly compensating the outlets that make it.

Media outlets have been squeezed with newsrooms shrinking as the digital age dries up their advertising revenues.

And Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who chaired a public inquiry into the laws, says big tech giants are essentially thieving by muscling in on advertising for content they don’t produce.

“You don’t just go into a supermarket and steal a can of fruit, which effectively is what the platforms do when they take journalism and give it away for free,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

The government has spent three years consulting with media outlets and tech giants in a bid to reach a compromise.

It says its plan, unveiled in December, ensures news outlets remain viable by providing them fair payment for content.

FORCED TO PAY: WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS PROPOSING

The plan would set up a mandatory media bargaining code forcing the tech giants to pay for original news content.

The laws will apply to Facebook’s News Feed and Google Search to begin with, but the government could add other platform services if they begin to wield unfair power.

After pressure from the Greens, the government agreed to include public broadcasters the ABC and SBS in the code.

The parties are encouraged to reach deals outside of the code, and the laws would establish a framework for to negotiate.

But when talks break down, the two parties will go to an independent umpire, which will decide what fee will be paid.

Google has taken up the government’s call to proactively negotiate with news outlets.

Google struck a deal with News Corp, the publisher of this article, to pay “significant amounts” for original content.

It came hot on the heels of two $30m annual agreements with Nine Entertainment and Seven West Media earlier in the week.

‘BREAKING THE INTERNET’: WHY THE TECH GIANTS ARE IN REVOLT

Google and Facebook argue the laws will break the way the internet functions, but both insist they want to thrash out a workable code.

Their core argument is that forcing payment for hyperlinking, a key feature of internet browsing, will make it unviable.

They’re concerned the code would create a precedent allowing people to charge for linking online.

Google says the plan would be like being charging a bus driver for delivering patrons to a restaurant.

“The ability to link freely between sites is a fundamental part of the internet,” it says on its website.

“It creates a damaging precedent and privileges one group of content, that of news publishers, over everyone else, which breaks Google Search.”

In a fiery two-day public hearing on the bill, it threatened to remove Google Search from Australian users altogether.

Facebook says the law “fundamentally misunderstands” how its platform interacts with publishers who share news content.

It reiterated its threat to prevent Australians from accessing news content, which it carried out overnight.



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Facebook bans Australian users from sharing news content


There’s a sign Facebook’s shock move to block Australian users from viewing and sharing news content on its platform may not last.

In a statement the tech giant on Wednesday said it was with “a heavy heart” it would stop allowing news content on Australian services in response to the government’s push to make it pay for news media content.

But in the last line of the statement, there is also a glimmer of hope it could change its mind.

“We hope that in the future the Australian government will recognise the value we already provide and work with us to strengthen, rather than limit, our partnerships with publishers,” it wrote.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has been leading the government’s efforts to make tech giants pay for news content, has revealed he had a “constructive discussion” with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday morning.

“He raised a few remaining issues with the government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward,” Mr Frydenberg wrote on Twitter.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher told ABC Breakfast that Facebook’s move was an indicator of the impact of the bill.

“We will be proceeding with the code,” Mr Fletcher said.

“We want Google and Facebook to stay in Australia, but we have been very clear that if you do business in Australia, you need to comply with the laws passed by the elected parliament of this nation.”

Mr Fletcher said the government was continuing to speak with Facebook but warned the platform needed to think about what the ban meant for its “reputation and standing”.

“They’re effectively saying, on our platform, there will not be any information from organisations which employ paid journalists which have fact-checking processes, editorial policies.

“They’re effectively saying any information that is available on our site does not come from these reliable sources.”

Mr Fletcher said a diverse, well-resourced media sector was an important part of Australia’s democratic process.

Opposition communications spokeswoman, Michelle Rowland, said the government needed to explain what was going on and what the impact would be.

“Not only that, what it intends to do about it,” Ms Rowland said.

“We need a workable code.”

But crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie has urged the government to go back to the negotiating table.

“If I was the minister and the Treasurer I would be going back to the table fairly quickly because that’s really going to hurt Australian journalists out there,” she told Sky News.

“If that means we have to give a little bit and bow a little bit, then maybe it might be worth it for the pain we’re going to pay.”

Senator Lambie warned it was “very concerning” that conspiracy theories could reign on the platform without reliable news.

Nationals senator Matt Canavan accused Facebook of trying to “bully and threaten” the Australian parliament.

“Facebook is trying to make an example of us,” he told Sky News.

“I don’t think we should buckle.”

Greens media spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, told Facebook to grow up.

“Facebook constantly makes excuses for why it allows fake news to be spread on their platform yet overnight has blocked real news,” she said.

“Australia’s democracy isn’t a college dorm room, and playing with public interest journalism isn’t a game.”

Google had also threatened to remove its search engine from Australia in retaliation but has now signed deals with the major news outlets.

News Corp on Thursday announced it had signed a global licensing deal with Google to make “significant payments” for displaying its content across the world on its Google News Showcase.



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Google’s news spending spree may save it from tough laws


Google may escape world-first laws impacting its search engine after a last-minute spending spree with Australian news outlets this week.

The laws designed to regulate tech giants Google and Facebook were introduced to the Australian parliament today (Wednesday) in a bid to force the companies to pay news outlets for the use of their content.

But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said several multimillion-dollar deals struck in the days before the news media bargaining code was introduced “changes the equation,” and may address problems the laws were designed the solve.

Nine Entertainment reportedly struck a $30 million a year deal with Google on Wednesday over the use of its news for the next five years.

It followed a Google deal with Seven West Media on Monday for a similar figure, and a contract with Junkee Media that chief executive Neil Ackland said represented a “significant investment” that would guarantee its “sustainability well into the future”.

Other deals between Google and media outlets including Guardian Australia and ABC are expected imminently.

Facebook has yet to announce any agreements with Australian publishers.

Mr Frydenberg said Google’s “generous” deals had only been struck due to the threat of regulation, and Australia’s news media bargaining code could “pave the way forward” for public-interest journalism.

“None of these deals would be happening if we didn’t have the legislation before the parliament,” he said.

“This code has exceeded what others have tried and failed to do. It is a framework, a lasting legal mandatory framework, which is obviously the reason why the parties have come to the table.”

The Treasurer confirmed he held discussions with Google chief executive Sundar Pichai and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over the weekend, and said the government “held the line” on the new laws.

Mr Frydenberg did leave the door open to whether he would designate Google’s Search or Facebook’s Newsfeed to be subject to the laws, however, given the deals that were being put in place.

“I don’t want to pre-empt any decisions that I may or may not take as the Treasurer to designate a particular digital platform under this code,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“But what I have said is if commercial deals are in place then it changes the equation.”

Swinburne media senior lecturer Dr Belinda Barnet said avoiding designation under the laws would be the “best possible outcome” for Google, which had campaigned fiercely against the news code and threatened to remove its search engine in Australia to avoid setting an international precedent.

“Google appears to have won, for all their flailing about and end-of-the-world scenarios,” Dr Barnet said.

“But while it’s a win for them, it’s also a win for media companies. There’s no way Nine would have walked away with a $30 million deal if this was not about to be debated in parliament.”

Despite the deals, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance federal president Marcus Strom said the laws were still vitally important to protect the future of journalism in Australia, particularly for smaller publications.

“The news bargaining code is still needed to ensure both of these global digital platforms contribute to the cost of all the journalism that they benefit from, and that smaller players are also compensated for their content, especially community, regional and rural outlets,” he said.

The news code is expected to be passed into law this week.



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