News Media Bargaining Code Remains “Unworkable” For Facebook

News Media Bargaining Code Remains “Unworkable” For Facebook

Facebook Australia has doubled down on its stance against the News Media Bargaining Code, urging the government to address “unworkable” aspects of the legislation.

In a blog post, Facebook Australia & New Zealand managing director Will Easton [pictured] commented on the final version of the legislation, which was introduced to parliament late last year.

“Unfortunately, the latest version still fails to acknowledge the commercial and technical realities of how publishers use Facebook and the value we provide to them,” Easton said.

“Ultimately the legislation does not provide solutions that will help the news industry over the long-term.”

The comments from Easton follow a threat from Facebook Australia last year, in which the social media platform threatened to prevent Australian publishers and users from sharing news content if the legislation is passed into law.

In his latest comments, Easton said Facebook is willing to support news publishers under the right laws.

“With the right rules in place, we will invest more money and expand our tools and programs to help news businesses adapt to the changing digital landscape and ensure our community sees news that is relevant and meaningful to them,” Easton said.

“Over the next three years, we will continue to support the global news ecosystem by investing hundreds of millions of dollars to expand the roll out of Facebook News, and launch new accelerator programs and subscription revenue products. We hope with changes to this legislation Australia will be part of this expansion.”

Similarly, Google has said it is willing to agree to a code and support news publishers provided the right changes are made.

Arbitration problems

The proposed ‘baseball’ arbitration model remains an area of significant concern for Facebook, with the tech giant labelling it “untested and unpredictable”.

“There’s no other law like this in Australia. No other business is forced into a highly uncertain binding arbitration process where the government decides who enters these agreements and forces payment from the provider of a free service,” Easton said.

Given the proposed changes will require arbitration to take place should the two parties not be able to come to an agreement over the payments, Easton pointed to government figures which suggest “at least 75 percent of bargaining processes will be forced to proceed to binding arbitration”.

“This fails to achieve the original goal of encouraging genuine bargaining between both parties. Beyond that, it allows an estimated 100 to 200 broadly-defined eligible news organisations to make deals as individual mastheads and digital channels,” Easton said.

“This could expose Facebook to more than 1,000 standalone commercial arrangements depending on how publishers use our service.”


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