March 2, 2021 | significant
The tech giant’s head-to-head battle with the Aussie government is no secret; it’s plagued the headlines for the last week. But despite its effect on media distribution in the Land Down Under, other countries are carefully watching the fallout.
Just before the close of February, Facebook decided to slam the door shut on news organisations in Australia, in a bid to stop them posting external news links on the platform. Why? To act as a response to proposed legislation from the Morrison Government that would see Australia demand payment to publishers if news content was posted on specific sites. This is the same legislation delivered to Google, which also caused controversy earlier in the month.
While we all sat and eagerly awaited the consequences, Facebook has quickly ‘reversed’ its decision, as the international public slammed the Silicon Valley company. Inevitably, it struck a deal with the Australian government, based on flexibility.
But that hasn’t stopped the sour taste in mouths across the world. We’re not likely to forget this ‘flex’ anytime soon.
There’s already calls to rein in the influence that this platform has in the likes of the US. With its show of force last week, this has only added fire to the flame. Unfortunately, things aren’t looking favourable for the social media platform, as it continues to take on the title of ‘tech bully’ (see Aussie newspapers).
Josh Pasek, associate professor of communications and political science at University of Michigan, said that there is an agreement among politicians that Facebook needs to be ‘reigned in’ and that “changes are in the cards”.
Furthermore, Bruce Wolpe of the University of Sydney’s Univeristy States Studies Centre said Facebook has unintentionally put the spotlight on their company in all the wrong ways, saying its “forceful approach in Australia would only raise the pressure for action”.
He further added that all “eyes are now on Facebook” after its “tactical mistake” in shutting down something of such fundamental importance to public interest” backfired.
So where does the US come in? Well, the Congress has been watching the situation carefully. In discussions late last week, politicians discussed the growing influence of Facebook over publishers and the dire need for legislation.
That could maen news publisher rights are on the way, and are likely to look a lot like those previously introduced. It would essentially allow newspapers and publishers to bargain with major platforms, like Facebook.
Meanwhile, Facebook may have thought they got the upper hand on Australia, but they haven’t gotten away with it. If the US were to go through with regulatory changes, it would be a major loss for the platform.
While some may say you get what you deserve, others have noted that the absence of “crammed” feeds and “spammed” headlines on Facebook has actually granted a sense of peace. But for the most part, having news back on the social channel is definitely well and truly welcomed.
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