Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

Australia vs Facebook Row


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Social media regulation

The social media giant Facebook is locked in a battle with Australia over legislation that would require FB, Google to pay for news outlets.

Row over the news on social media

  • Australia had proposed a law called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020.
  • It seeks to mandate a bargaining code that aims to force Google and Facebook to compensate media companies for using their content.

Imagine if the case arises in India where tons of news channels and impulsive journalists are dying off hard to gather TRPs!

Response from the ‘giants’

  • Google had threatened to make its search engine unavailable in Australia in response to the legislation, which would create a panel to make pricing decisions on the news.
  • Facebook responded by blocking users from accessing and sharing Australian news.

Why countries are bringing such legislation?

  • Australia has launched a global diplomatic offensive to support its proposed law to force Internet giants Facebook and Google to pay media companies.
  • Google accounts for 53% of Australian online advertising revenue and Facebook for 23%.
  • The legislation sets a precedent in regulating social media across geographies and is being closely watched the world over.

What is happening in other countries?

  • Australia’s proposed law would be the first of its kind, but other governments also are pressuring Google, Facebook and other internet companies to pay news outlets and other publishers for the material.
  • In Europe, Google had to negotiate with French publishers after a court last year upheld an order saying such agreements were required by a 2019 EU copyright directive.
  • France is the first government to enforce the rules, but the decision suggests Google, Facebook and other companies will face similar requirements in other parts of the 27-nation trade bloc.

The ‘doubted’ reluctance

  • Last year, Facebook announced it would pay US news organizations including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today for headlines.
  • In Spain, Google shut down its news website after a 2014 law required it to pay publishers.

Why does this matter?

  • Developments in Australia and Europe suggest the financial balance between multibillion-dollar internet companies and news organizations might be shifting.
  • Australia is responding to complaints by news reports, magazine articles and other content that appears on their websites or is shared by users.
  • The government acted after its competition regulator tried and failed to negotiate a voluntary payment plan with Google.
  • The proposed law would create a panel to make binding decisions on the price of news reports to help give individual publishers more negotiating leverage with global internet companies.

Not losing out revenue gain

  • Google’s agreement means a new revenue stream for news outfits, but whether that translates into more coverage for readers, viewers and listeners is unclear.
  • The union for Australian journalists is calling on media companies to make sure online revenue goes into newsgathering.

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