In Australia, the government has started a standoff with Facebook

Facebook illustration.
Facebook illustration. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

It’s the war between the Californian tech giant and Australian news media since last week. Today, the government of the country has even decided to dispense with the services of Facebook to launch its vaccination campaign against Covid-19. This is not a problem estimated the Minister of Health, the campaign with a budget of more than 16 million euros will be done on other media, assured Greg Hunt, and there will be nothing on the Californian platform.

The tea towel burns because of the binding “Code of Conduct”. A bill that aims to force the tech giants to pay the media for the resumption of their news content. If the text (currently presented to the Senate) is not applied, an independent arbitrator will then be appointed, he can decide and decide on remuneration. With financial penalties to boot. Presented last December to the two behemoths Facebook and Google, the project was discussed. But nothing to do, the Californian social network is sticking to its positions. For him, this law is too vague. As a result, last Thursday Facebook blocked without warning millions of Internet users who could neither read nor share articles on the platform.

It should be remembered that of the 25 million inhabitants in Australia, 30% of them explain that they are informed via Facebook. Except that the social network has also blocked several official pages of emergency services such as the fire department or a children’s hospital. In the face of the outcry, the platform finally restored them but not those of the news sites. The Australian government has since attempted further talks. So far without success. Meanwhile, false information and conspiracy theories continue to fuel the social network.

Facebook is not giving in, but Google has backed down. Initially opposed to the text, he ended up signing a deal with Australia’s main news group News Corp, owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch. Significant sums without saying more, explains Google, will be paid over several years to the securities of the Murdoch group in Australia but also in the United Kingdom and the United States. Be careful not to claim victory too quickly. This binding “Code of Conduct” was intended to bail out the Australian press. But the health crisis has already got the better of many small local publications. The law therefore risks above all benefiting large press groups and weakening pluralism a little more.

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