A search for ‘Australia News’ on the Google homepage, arranged on a desktop computer in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.
David Gray | Bloomberg via Getty Images
Australia has passed a new law that will require digital platforms like Facebook and Google to pay local media outlets and publishers to link their content on news feeds or in search results.
The move was widely expected and comes days after the government introduced some last-minute amendments to the proposed bill, known officially as the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.
“The Code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement.
They added that the government was “pleased to see progress by both Google and more recently Facebook in reaching commercial arrangements with Australian news media businesses.”
The law will be reviewed by the Treasury within one year of its commencement, the officials said.
Both Facebook and Google have fought against the law since last year.
Essentially, Australia will become the first country where a government-appointed arbitrator can decide on the final price that either platform will have to pay Australian news publishers, provided a commercial deal cannot be reached independently.
The decision will come by a ruling in favor of either party — the digital platform or the publisher — with no room for a middle-ground agreement, according to experts.
In this week’s amendments, the government said the parties involved will get a two-month mediation period to broker deals before they are made to enter arbitration as a last resort.
Facebook announced Monday it will restore news pages in Australia, reversing an earlier decision to block access to news content on in Australia in retaliation against the then proposed bill.
Facebook’s vice president for global news partnerships, Campbell Brown, said Tuesday the Australian government clarified that the tech company will retain the ability to decide if news appears on its platform so that it won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation.
Google initially threatened to pull its search function from Australia. In recent weeks, however, it struck a number of prominent commercial agreements with Australian publishers, including the Murdoch family-owned media conglomerate NewsCorp.
Australia’s new law could set a precedent for how other countries regulate Big Tech. Countries like France have undertaken some measures to make the tech firms pay for news, while others like Canada and the U.K. are considering their next steps.