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Australia requires Google and Facebook to pay for news content

CANBERRA, Australia – The Australian government said on Friday that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to pay honestly with Australian media companies for news content.

The government has released a draft mandatory code of conduct that aims to succeed where other countries have failed to make global digital giants pay for news transferred from commercial media companies.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Facebook FB,
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Google would be the first digital platforms covered by the proposed legislation, but others could follow.

“It’s about a fair start for Australian news media companies, it’s about making sure we have more competition, more consumer protection and a sustainable media landscape,” said Frydenberg.

“With these changes, nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake,” he added.

If the US-based platforms were unable to agree with Australian media companies on pricing after three months, arbitrators would be appointed to make a binding decision, the draft said.

The draft will be open for consultation until August 28, and the legislation will be presented to Parliament shortly afterwards, Frydenberg said.

In addition to payment, the code addresses issues such as access to user data and transparency of algorithms used to rank and present media content.

Breaches of the code could result in fines of up to 10% of the platform’s annual revenue or a fine of 10 million Australian dollars ($ 7.2 million).

Frydenberg said the motive was not to protect Australian companies from competition or disruption, but to ensure that they are paid fairly for original content.

The conservative government continues the changes after the pandemic triggered an advertising revenue crisis for many Australian media companies.

Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.