Australia media bill close to a decision with Google and Facebook

Google and Facebook have been making headlines in Australia, as well as around the world, thanks to the media deal currently in discussion with the Australian government. The deal, which has been in the works since the end of 2021, would require big tech giants such as Google and Facebook to pay local media publishers and online outlets for their news content. 

If successful, the deal would set a precedent around the world for the future of online news. It has faced controversy and resistance from the Big Tech firms who say such rules would run counter to the free hyperlink principles the web was built upon. 

The deal has been dubbed the ‘news media bargaining code’ and first introduced into Australian parliament in December 2020. It would require the larger search engines such as Facebook and Google to pay smaller news outlets for their content or event to appear in search results. 

If the Big Tech firms are unable to come to a deal with smaller, local publishers, the Australian government is set to step in to decide the terms that could see current digital giants expelled from Australia’s online network. In lieu of a commercial deal, government officials would be instrumental in setting a price for such linking. 

Google currently holds an over 94% market share of all online searches in Australia and it is unclear what would replace it if it were to pull out of the Australian market. Facebook likewise has threatened to reduce services on its network and other platforms such as Instagram for Australian users if they feel the deal to be unfavourable to their business. 

This is not the first time the Australian government has gone up against Silicon Valley’s Big Tech firms. In 2018 there was a brief period Amazon restricted access to some of its products due to conflicts with local tax laws before a compromise was reached.