Facebook folds and will allow news sharing in Australia

In the end, all Facebook needed was for someone to give it a ladder. After climbing a very tall tree when it blocked access to news on its platform in Australia (and news from Australia and the rest of the world), and after the public reaction against it was fierce, and the unintended consequences devastating, it was clear the situation could not last long. herself. Fortunately, the Australian government this morning filed a scale in the form of concessions in the form of a bill that would require the company to pay publishers for presenting news. Unfortunately, these are mainly symbolic concessions that symbolize the whole affair as a loss to Facebook, and are likely to whet appetite among other countries.

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When Facebook blocked the news in Australia, it would justify the move by saying that the company’s obligation to pay for them stemmed from a lack of understanding of the relationship between it and the news, and that there was strong opposition to the law itself. “The legislation will create a precedent where the government decides who will sign these agreements, and ultimately how much payment the party who already receives value from a free service will receive,” she explained.

But Facebook’s surrender came without the Australian government agreeing to give up the principle at the heart of the law itself – paying for the use of news on online platforms. The Australian government has also not had to give up on the issue in the law which experts believe was the real reason for Facebook’s opposition: the establishment of an independent arbitration procedure, which will decide in the event that Facebook and media outlets fail to reach conclusions.

Facebook against the backdrop of newspapers in Australia Photo: API

This procedure, which changes the balance of power in favor of news sites and against platforms, was the main motive for Facebook and Google’s opposition (which rushed to sign agreements with publishers hours before Facebook started blocking the news). And this procedure goes nowhere. At most, wait a bit on the side According to a report by the Australian ABC network, as part of the agreed changes, arbitration will become a last resort in cases where it is not possible to reach a commercial transaction for more than two months, ie only after two months of failed contacts, this arbitration will be presented. To choose one of them and it will become binding under the law. Another “waiver” is that the Treasury will be required to consider transactions it has already made with publishers in making the decision before deciding whether the law applies to a particular platform, and give the platform one month’s notice before making a final decision.

that’s it. This is the ladder that Facebook needed to get off the tree. A two-month allocation for negotiations, and advance notice that the law applies to it. A response posted by Facebook implies that this is what it has always wanted. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Australian government,” it said. “We have always supported a framework that encourages innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers After discussions, we are pleased that the changes agreed by the Australian Government address our core concerns and enable commercial transactions that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers in relation to the value we receive from them. As a result of these changes … we will return the news on Facebook to Australians in the coming days (why only days when she downloaded them in one moment? Not clear, etc.) “.

Yes? Is that what you wanted? Two months of negotiations? That’s why you went to the extreme act of blocking all the news in an entire country, with wide repercussions on the country and other countries in the region? That’s why you risked such an extreme and precedent-setting act in your case that it became a global scandal, Facebook’s biggest entanglement since The Cambridge Analytics affair? Whoever believes this, I have shares in MySpace to sell to him.

Facebook.  Severe discrimination in Australia Facebook. Severe discrimination in Australia Photo: Shatterstock

It’s pretty clear that the concessions there are mostly cosmetic, a ladder that will allow Facebook to get off the tree it climbed. Because the exercise designed to bend the Australian government, in the end, as I predicted here just last week, exploded on Facebook in the face, and in a big way: starting with blockages of health authorities’ Facebook pages, rescue, law enforcement and more (during the vaccination campaign and seasonRepoFor all intents and purposes), for impaired access to news by islanders in the geographical area of ​​Australia, who rely heavily on news outlets in the country and depend on Facebook for most of their browsing, and up to initial evidence of a rise in Pike News’ social network.

And above all, rage. Fury over Facebook, the arrogance of the company, the great power it has and the bullying way it uses to try to achieve its goals. No one bought Facebook’s arguments, everyone understood exactly what it was trying to achieve here, and lawmakers and decision makers in many countries, particularly the US, UK and Canada, reacted accordingly and threatened Facebook with similar steps and tighter regulation. Everyone knew Facebook had too much power. , This incident proved that it is also willing to use it irresponsibly.The result is not a fold of fear, but a sharp counter-reaction that will accompany Facebook for a long time to come.

The affair also made it clear that Facebook needs news sites much more than news sites need it. While following the block, news sites saw an increase in direct traffic to and downloading of their mobile apps (the ABC app soared to the top of the download table in Australia, just above the Facebook app family – Instagram, Messenger, Facebook and WhatsApp), the lack of news broke Facebook In unexpected ways, and made it clear to the company that over time the consequences will only get worse. Facebook had hoped to leverage pressure on the Australian government, but eventually put pressure on itself, forcing it to reach out to inferior discussions and reach swift and marginal summaries just so it could have an excuse to eliminate the affair.

Founder and CEO Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg Photo: AFP

Returning the news to Australia is not the end of the affair, it is just the beginning of the story. The demon that Facebook released can no longer be returned to the bottle. Now that it has shown how easily it can be bent, similar moves to oblige it to pay for news, especially the one led by the EU, are likely to get a significant boost. Facebook is of course expected to oppose, but will not use Doomsday weapons again. And after agreeing in principle to pay for news in Australia, and to operate a binding arbitration mechanism, it will find it difficult to justify similar opposition in other countries.

But the damage to Facebook can be much wider than paying for news. Because Facebook’s bullying use of its power has opened the eyes of many countries to the danger it poses, the company may now face legislative moves designed to regulate its activities more broadly, perhaps subjecting it to a regulatory authority that could prevent it from behaving like it did in Australia. In fact, it is likely that the country, which experienced this bullying first hand and also could, will be the first to lead such moves and as with the issue of paying for news will mark the way for more countries.

Facebook, which hoped to silence a legislative move that would undermine the power it has, and also oblige it to pay a few pennies that it does not lack, eventually achieved the opposite result, putting itself in a bigger bar and future to pay a much more expensive and painful price. Facebook’s exercise not only exploded in her face, it was an atomic explosion that could change beyond recognition the status of the company and the legislation and regulation to which it is subject.