Josh Frydenberg tells Mark Zuckerberg Australian Government won't back down over media bargaining code

  • 01/02/2021

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said he met with Mark Zuckerberg over plans to force tech giants to pay for news sourced from local media outlets, but the Facebook chief executive and founder was unable to shift the Government's position.

Speaking on Insiders, Mr Frydenberg said the Federal Government was continuing discussions with Google and Facebook over the proposed mandatory bargaining code, currently before a Senate committee.

Mr Frydenberg said he and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher met with Mr Zuckerberg last week, after the Facebook chief executive "reached out" to the Government.

But the Facebook founder was unable to move the Government's position on the code.

"Mark Zuckerberg didn't convince me to back down, if that's what you are asking," Mr Frydenberg said.

Facebook has threatened to remove Australians' ability to post news content to its platforms if the Federal Government doesn't back down on the proposed code, which was introduced to Parliament in December.

The code was tabled following years of complaints from traditional media outlets that social media platforms benefit from the work of journalists without compensation.

Google and Facebook continue to argue that media organisations benefit from referrals and clicks through to their websites.

The US Government has also called on the Federal Government to scrap the proposed laws, saying the legislation would "raise concerns with respect to Australia's international trade obligations".

The Australian Government announced the legislation after an investigation found the tech giants held too much market power in the media industry, a situation it said posed a potential threat to a well-functioning democracy.

Mr Frydenberg said the Government stood by the need for the laws despite the public pressure applied by Google and Facebook.

"This has been the product of an 18-month inquiry, world-leading inquiry, by the ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission], and at every step of the way, these businesses have been consulted," he said.

"Now, the goalposts seem to be shifting, because originally they had a concern with the algorithm requirements of notification.

"Then it was about value exchange and then it was about a final arbitration model. Now we're told that if we go ahead with this, we're going to break the internet

          "What I do know is that media businesses should be paid for content. And what I do know is that the Morrison Government, whether it's on this issue, whether it's on cyberbullying or terrorist content on the internet, we have been prepared to take on these digital giants."

Government 'not intimidated' by Google's search engine threat

He said the Government took seriously Google's threat to stop making its search engine available in Australia altogether.

"I don't dismiss the threats, but I'm not intimidated by them either," Mr Frydenberg said, in response to whether he believed Google was bluffing.

Google recently decided to hide some Australian news sites from its search results in a move that was interpreted as a response to the proposed laws.

Changes to Google's search algorithm affected a small percentage of users and buried links to some commercial news sites.

A Google spokesperson said it was an "experiment" that happened "every year".

Google would not say whether it was also burying links to the ABC and SBS, which are included alongside commercial media in the proposed code to make platforms pay for content.

In light of the possibility Australia's access to Google's search engine could be removed, Mr Frydenberg said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had spoken to the CEO and president of Microsoft about the company's search engine Bing.

"They're watching this very closely and no doubt see opportunities here in Australia to expand too," Mr Frydenberg said.

 

 

 

Source

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-31/frydenberg-tells-zuckerberg-goverment-wont-back-down-media-code/13106716

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