Technology

Australia made Facebook pay for the press, lessons for Vietnam


Australia has been at the forefront of an uphill battle against bad-ass tech giants, though it’s still at a starting point.

Australia has been at the forefront of an uphill battle against bad-ass tech giants, though it’s still at a starting point.

“Global technology companies must not be outlawed, especially when so much is at stake,” said Rod Sims, chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

It was on a summer day in 2019, the ACCC presented the Australian Prime Minister with a 623-page report full of charts and figures showing a sharp decline in local journalism.

This report is the shot that signals the beginning of a seemingly unequal battle between the press agencies and the cross-border technology giants known as Big Tech.

Revolutionary bill

In February this year, Australia’s News Media Negotiations bill officially went into effect, dealing a blow to the social networking empire Facebook and the search giant Google.

The Act is the result of a three-year preparation process, promoted by the Australian government and drafted by the ACCC.

Between 2017 and 2019, the agency produced eight different reports to analyze the relationship between journalism and digital platforms such as Facebook and Google.

Facebook has responded to the Australian bill by blocking all Australian news on this social network.

In April 2020, the Australian government asked the ACCC to draft a mandatory bill, the first and unprecedented in the world. Since then, a bill has been submitted to the Australian Senate and House of Representatives for the first time at the end of 2020, approved by both houses of the country and effective immediately from February 25, 2021.

This can be seen as an extremely urgent work speed in the context that Big Tech is increasingly expanding and swallowing up the market share of the press. With their own algorithms, Facebook or Google have collected the best pieces of cake, taking press content without a fair share of revenue.

At that time, very few people thought about asking for money back from Facebook or Google. Neither country has made any significant efforts to bring fairness between the press and digital platforms.

Finally, Australia has made history with a bill aimed squarely at any technology company that unfairly competes and pirates news content.

What’s in Australian law?

The News Media Negotiations Act is not a direct tool to collect money from Facebook or Google, but it acts as an arbiter and puts pressure on digital platforms.

The provisions in this act are generally favorable to the media, ranging from very small local newspapers to news agencies with a presence in Australia such as electronic editions produced by corporations. operated by the US News Corp. or The Guardian and the UK’s Daily Mail.

Facebook was, of course, the one who reacted the most when the bill was passed on February 25. Despite ‘doing it’ to the Australian government, Facebook finally gave in.

The bill was also amended at the last minute to give the power to renegotiate the media and the government to appoint the body to act as arbitrator when negotiations fail.

Eventually, Facebook reached a settlement with News Corp and Nine Entertainment in an undisclosed settlement that amounts to several million dollars a year. According to an analyst at Morningstar, the Australian model could bring in about $150 million a year that other countries can learn from.

Closer to home, Facebook continued to make concessions and pay smaller news outlets in the form of fund grants. The amount of the deal was not disclosed, but Facebook and Country Press Australia (CPA) signed an open letter leading to a joint agreement for years to come.

CPA is the organization representing 81 news publishers with 160 local publications spread across Australia. The CPA has been authorized by the ACCC to work with Facebook and Google in reclaiming money from digital platforms.

What opportunities for other countries?

Australia’s firing has paved the way for countries like the US, UK or France to figure out how to monetize Facebook and Google, or at least pressure Big Tech to split the pie more evenly.

This pressure has somewhat worked outside of Australia. Accordingly, Google is having to deploy News Showcase as a way to pay content royalties to the press with an initial commitment of about $ 1 billion. This feature is currently available in eight countries: UK, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Czech Republic and India.

Facebook is also rolling out a News section in the UK with an undisclosed fee for news royalties. But the social network is planning to invest $1 billion over the next three years to support journalism globally.

Australia made Facebook pay for the press, lessons for Vietnam-2

Facebook finally had to give in, sit down at the negotiating table with news agencies in Australia. (pictured: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and News Corp CEO Robert Thomson.)

This means that press agencies in Vietnam will also be included in the plans of Facebook and Google, but it is only a matter of time. But if you want to go faster, a draft law that would force cross-border platforms to pay press agencies is something to be reckoned with.

Or at least the regulator needs to tighten the operation of Facebook and Google in Vietnam according to the existing regulations on tax, the Law on Cybersecurity and the Law on Competition. Only then, will Big Tech sit at the negotiating table to come to an agreement that will bring fairness to the content publishing industry in general and the press in particular.

Mr. Nguyen Truong Son, Standing Vice President and General Secretary of the Vietnam Advertising Association said: “More than 80% of advertising revenue now falls into the hands of Facebook and Google”. The advertising pie of Vietnam’s online newspapers is increasingly being encroached on by cross-border platforms such as Facebook and Google. While these platforms live heavily on the information of electronic newspapers in the form of sharing by users.

The leader of a newspaper shared that it seems that Google has a policy of loosening payment for Vietnamese electronic newspapers, but Facebook is a stingy “guy” who is making money on the back of Vietnamese electronic newspapers. their pay is so low that the newspapers no longer care. This is unacceptable. However, if Vietnamese online newspapers do not join hands like other countries, Facebook will still make money on their backs.

Phuong Nguyen

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