Australia passed Facebook and Google News Law in February 2021

Australia passed the world’s first law requiring Google and Facebook to pay for news content on their platforms. The law was opposed US tech giants, and Facebook blocked all news content for Australians. Facebook agreed to counter their decision after far-reaching negotiations with the government that has effect of making alterations to the law for addressing some of their concerns. Globally, the law has been seen as a test case for similar regulations. The amended legislation – the Media Bargaining Code – was passed the Australian House of Representatives in February 2021 after having previously passed through the Senate.

The News Code encourages tech giants and news organisations to negotiate pay deals and obliges Facebook and Google for investing millions of dollars in local digital content. In case of failure of negotiation, an independent arbiter could set the price they pay local media, which analysts say is good for news groups. According to the government, it is a fairer negotiation procedure between the parties since it gives news organisations an increased leverage.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the market regulator, says publishers have had little negotiating power so far because they are so dependent on tech monopolies like Google and Facebook. This follows an investigation the commission into  online advertising dominance of tech firms which revealed that in 2018, for every A$100 (£56; €65) spent Australian advertisers, A$49 went to Google and A$24 to Facebook.

The code also requires tech platforms to notify news publishers of changes to their algorithms, which decide which stories are shown. The amended law also has made mandatory for the  government to make consideration of platform’s existing contributions to journalism – such as business deals with publishers – before the application of code to them, which further implies that Facebook and Google could escape the arbitration process altogether. The government must also give a platform a notice of one month if it has a planning for an implementation of the code.