Compromise in Canberra: a points win for Facebook?

After several days of talks, the Australian government and Facebook have settled their dispute over the planned new media law (the News Media Bargaining Code). In the future the tech giant is to negotiate payment for journalistic content directly with Australia's media companies and outlets. If the negotiations fail, the government will appoint a mediator. Facebook has said it will reverse its ban on news content and pages.

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Le Point (FR) /

Just a trial run

Not only Facebook but also Beijing is at loggerheads with Canberra after China imposed punitive tariffs on Australia for excluding Huawei from the construction of its 5G network. Le Point is concerned:

“This double blackmail against a sovereign state illustrates the new geopolitical situation of the 21st century: a world in which the Chinese Communist Party and the US internet giants are trying to rewrite the rules of the international order in their favour. ... This situation requires that the Europeans stand side by side and act independently - which is often difficult for them. The fact that they saw no reason to stretch out a hand to Australia in its recent plight is not an encouraging sign. For China, as for Facebook, Australia was probably just a trial run.”

Contributors (RO) /

Dispute among the tech giants

Contributors already sees Facebook facing the next challenge:

“This is just one episode in a major global dispute that has enormous implications not only at the economic level but also in terms of freedom of expression, the future of journalism, democracy as a social model and geopolitical developments. The conflict situation is complicated - which is also evidenced by the disputes between the big tech companies. ... Apple CEO Tim Cook has announced that the iPhone 13 may exclude apps in which users' personal data is a key business model. That would mean Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and similar apps would be left out. ... The question in this battle is now whether Facebook needs the iPhone more, or whether it's the other way round.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Cementing the status quo

This compromise just makes media companies even more dependent on Facebook's handouts, says the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“The behaviour of the tech companies in the run-up to the passing of this law shows that they are monopolists. What company is in a position to throw an entire country into turmoil? ... Nevertheless, anyone who sees the Australian law as a model for Europe, or even as a solution to the problem of financing quality journalism is wrong. ... With this law, the Australian government ultimately relies on platforms making donations to publishers. This cements their business relationship and reinforces the media companies' dependence on the tech giants. Instead, media companies should try to emancipate themselves more and more from the platforms and reach customers through their own apps.”

The Times (GB) /

Time for a friend request

The compromise in Australia does not release Facebook from its responsibilities, The Times comments:

“Across the world, in various forms, social media companies are facing a new era of regulation. Providing fair compensation for news content is a vital component of the organisations they must become. Google, Facebook's key rival, has recently struck deals with a variety of news organisations, including News Corporation, ultimate owner of The Times. Facebook should be keen to follow suit, and swiftly. Liberal democracy requires a thriving plurality of media content, local, national and worldwide. It is time for Facebook to become traditional media's partner, rather than its nemesis.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Sooner or later they will fall victim to their own greed

Google and Facebook have won a Pyrrhic victory in Australia, says Jutarnji list:

“They have won the mitigation of a law that would have cost them a lot, but in doing so they have only increased the size of the target that the EU and the US have long had their sights on. ... Sooner or later, Facebook and Google will fall victim to their own greed. Either they will erode democratic society to such an extent that they will be banned or nationalised, or the US and EU antitrust authorities will literally break them up into their individual components. In the long run, none of these companies has any reason to be confident about the future - but there is also only one favourable scenario for ordinary citizens.”