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Media & Entertainment

Australia corners Google and Facebook into paying for news content

Big Tech will face steep fines for snubbing negotiations

Australia wants tech platforms to negotiate "in good faith" with news outlets.   © Reuters

SYDNEY -- The Australian government will require Google and Facebook to negotiate with news outlets about compensation for posting their content, or else pay hefty fines, under plans detailed Friday.

Whether platforms should pay for news has been a hot topic around the world, especially as many news organizations struggle amid the coronavirus pandemic. Canberra's plan could set a precedent for other countries grappling with the issue.

Under the draft proposal published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, platforms will have to "negotiate in good faith over each bargaining issue" with news outlets that request talks on payment, for example. Smaller outlets will be able to engage in collective bargaining.

Platforms will give news organizations 28 days' notice of changes to algorithms that affect how articles are ranked and displayed.

If the two sides fail to reach agreement within three months, the government will appoint an arbitrator to choose between their final offers within 45 days.

Platforms flouting these rules, such as through refusing to negotiate, will be fined up to 10% of their revenue in Australia. Google and Facebook are believed to ring up an annual 5 billion Australian dollars ($3.56 billion) or so from advertising here.

"These are very high penalties," ACCC Chair Rod Sims said, according to public broadcaster ABC. The government aims to submit the proposal to Parliament and make it law by the end of the year.

Google has pushed back strongly against the proposal. "It sends a concerning message to businesses and investors that the Australian government will intervene instead of letting the market work," said Mel Silva, managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, in a statement.

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