July 7, 2020

Australia Gives Up Any Pretense: Pushes Straight Up Tax On Facebook & Google To Pay News Orgs

By Mike Masnick
Last week we wrote about France’s push to force Google to pay legacy news organizations for the high crime of… sending them traffic. That was somewhat expected, as under the EU Copyright Directive, some version of this will show up in every EU country over the next few months (though France’s first approach is particularly dumb). Down in Australia, they’re not subject to the EU Copyright Directive, but it’s not stopping them from taking the same ridiculous approach:

Facebook and Google will be forced to share advertising revenue with Australian media companies after the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, instructed the competition watchdog to develop a mandatory code of conduct for the digital giants amid a steep decline in advertising brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

As the article notes, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had been working to get the media companies and Google and Facebook to come up with a voluntary plan, but since the media companies basically want it all, that hasn’t worked out so well. Instead, the ACCC has now been told to just write up the plan. Make no mistake about this: this is the Australian government, at the behest of a bunch of legacy media companies that failed to adapt to the internet, now taxing Google and Facebook for sending media companies free internet traffic that those companies don’t know how to monetize.

And it goes beyond just having to pay to send them traffic, it also requires Google and Facebook to let media companies know ahead of time if they’re going to make any changes to their algorithms that might impact content rankings. That is ridiculous. It’s basically giving news companies preferred placement in search rankings, and locking those legacy providers in. Why in the world should media companies get special access to the algorithm of either company?

Frydenberg said it was only fair that media companies that created the content got paid for it.

They do get paid for it. They decided to put content on the web. If they don’t like the traffic, they can easily use robots.txt to block sites from scraping them. If they can’t monetize the traffic, that’s on them, isn’t it?

“This will help to create a level playing field,” he said.

This is the exact opposite of a level playing field. This is basically tilting the playing field strongly towards legacy media companies in a manner that is not only silly for the internet companies, but in a manner that makes it nearly impossible for new entrants in the field, as the legacy players get an automatic boost from the free money they get from the internet companies that send them free traffic.

Source:: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200420/09245744331/australia-gives-up-any-pretense-pushes-straight-up-tax-facebook-google-to-pay-news-orgs.shtml