Fate of Facebook and Google in Australia depends on amendments in media law

WION Web Team
Sydney, Australia Published: Feb 24, 2021, 11.13 AM(IST)

Google and Facebook Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Despite some opposition from political parties, the government might finalise the amendments to the so-called Media Bargaining Code

A few hours after the Australian government and Facebook reached a compromise deal, the country's lawmakers are expected to approve amendments to the controversial media law that may force Alphabet's Google and Facebook to pay media companies for news content.

Despite some opposition from political parties, the government might finalise the amendments to the so-called Media Bargaining Code.

The Senate began debating the amendments on Wednesday, and while the Liberal Party — the leading political party — does not have a majority in the upper house, the support from the opposition Labor Party can be enough to pass the bill.

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This has come a few hours after the popular social media platform retraced on its protest by bringing the news content back on its platform to be accessed by the locals of Australia.

The matter on hand was escalated last week after Facebook decided to block all news-related content from its platform in Australia, as a sign of protest. The decision was rolled back after the government and Facebook officials reached a compromise deal on Tuesday.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will now be given the discretion to decide whether Facebook and Google will be subjected to the code, with the condition being that they make a "significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry."

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This has brought criticism from some of the opposition politicians who feel this can give Frydenberg the chance to exempt Facebook and Google from this new media law, even if they fail to strike a deal with media companies.

Earlier, all tech giants were being forced to either reach a commercial deal with news companies or let the Australian government set a price.

"This changes the bill significantly," said independent senator Rex Patrick. "The big players could successfully negotiate with Facebook or Google. The minister then doesn't designate them, and all the little players miss out."

Frydenberg, meanwhile, has said he will give Google and Facebook some time to strike deals with the Australian news companies.

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