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Australian government takes on Google and Facebook over re-publishing ‘news’

Tanutam Thawan

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A leading Australian consumer watchdog is calling for Google and other tech giants to pay Australian news outlets A$600 million (12.4 billion baht) a year under a new code of conduct ordered by the government. News Limited and Nine Entertainment have also voiced their support for the news ‘tax’.

The Australia government announced plans to force Google, Facebook, and other large internet firms to share advertising revenues earned from Australian news content featured by their search engines. The announcement came last month. The Australian government will unveil details of the mandatory payments to deal with the tech giants’ republishing of news in July.

Legislators argue that the payment should amount to 10% of the large tech companies’ advertising revenues in Australia, estimated by the government at some A$6 billion per year. The country’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, determined that 10% of the tech firms’ revenues are derived from advertising on news content.

The government says it is imposing the new mandatory code of conduct after months of negotiations, on a voluntary agreement, with Google, Facebook and other companies, failed to reach an agreement.

Both Google and Facebook have protested the move and are calling for continued negotiations. Both companies also insist they have invested millions of dollars in initiatives in helping Australia’s struggling news industry.

Consumers use both products, and others, to find daily news items and can ‘click through’ to read from the source. In Google’s case the offending listing is called the ‘Google snippet’ and includes a thumbnail and short description of the story. Many news websites rely on the majority of their traffic coming from both platforms.

In response to falling revenues, Australian news outlets have reportedly slashed 20% of jobs in the last 6 years. The crisis has only deepened in the economic and advertising downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has already forced the closure of many smaller news publishers.

An estimated 17 million Australians (out of a population of 24.5 million) use Facebook each month and spend an average of 30 minutes on the platform a day, while 98% of Australian mobile searches use Google.

SOURCE: AFP | ACCC

 

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