The proposal would allow certain media outlets to bargain either individually or collectively with Facebook and Google — and to enter arbitration if the parties can’t reach an agreement within three months, according to regulators. That process would involve an independent arbitrator looking at offers from both sides and settling the matter within 45 business days.
Both tech firms argue that the legislation is unfairly skewed toward publishers, and would force them to pay news companies while the tech firms contend they already do plenty to support them.
Easton, for example, said that Facebook’s decision this week came after it had already tried to work with regulators on ways to work more closely with media outlets.
“We already invest millions of dollars in Australian news businesses and, during discussions over this legislation, we offered to invest millions more,” he wrote. “We had also hoped to bring Facebook News to Australia, a feature on our platform exclusively for news, where we pay publishers for their content.”
Those proposals were “overlooked,” he said.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg responded to Facebook’s announcement Tuesday, saying the reforms would help “create a more sustainable media landscape.”
“Australia makes laws that advance our national interest. We don’t respond to coercion or heavy handed threats wherever they come from,” he said in a statement.
For now, Google and Facebook are the only tech companies that would be subject to the new regulation. But other platforms may be added in the future, according to regulators.
Easton said Monday that “the proposed law is unprecedented in its reach and seeks to regulate every aspect of how tech companies do business with news publishers.”
“We are left with a choice of either removing news entirely or accepting a system that lets publishers charge us for as much content as they want at a price with no clear limits,” said Easton. “Unfortunately, no business can operate that way.”
If Facebook goes ahead with its decision to restrict news on its platforms, it will not affect the company’s other offerings for users in Australia, he added.
The legislation went through a public consultation phase last month. It will next have to be finalized and put forward to parliament, where lawmakers will vote on whether to pass it.