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The Australian war between Google, Facebook and the media that could shape the future

The fight between the media and Google and Facebook is known. Spain was one of the first countries where this debate touched down. In 2014, due to the imposition of the called Canon AEDE, which wanted to force Google to pay publishers to show snippets of their news, ended the closure of Google News in Spain, still in force.

Now, in Australia, the battle has reached higher heights. Following a new law approved by the government that forces technology companies such as Google and Facebook to pay for linking media content, the roads have forked. Google has begun to reach agreements with some publishers, while Facebook has completely turned off the tap, banning the display of any Australian media content from both Facebook Australia and the rest of the world.

Media vs Technology: A very old debate that can change the internet

The resolution of this conflict can mark what happens in the rest of the world. In Europe, France already forced Google to a similar measure a few months ago, which after many pulses, ended up with Google giving in and reaching an agreement with the main French media association. The measure in the French country came from a ruling that understood that the 2019 European Union copyright directive included the need for this ‘compensation’. By extension, as this regulation is applied, it could reach all 27 EU countries.

The underlying debate has always been the same. Many media, especially from associations that bring together the oldest and most important in different countries, They start from the premise that, above all, Google uses your information for the operation of its search engine, and therefore for your advertising system. Something that is true, the function of the search engine would not be the same without the means.

But, from the other point of view, Google sends a huge amount of traffic to the media.or that helps to monetize their sites, their relevance or, currently, to promote the paywall systems implemented in recent months. It is, in a way, a win-win relationship in which it is often overlooked that any medium or website that does not want Google to feed on its contents can avoid it adding a simple no-indexing command to your site’s HTML.

However, the knot has been narrowing until the Australian case, where they want to force Google and Facebook to pay for linking. Microsoft, in a minor dispute with Bing, has indeed said that it accepts the Law. Google and Facebook have gone their separate ways.

In Europe, within the framework of the implementations or not of the so-called ‘Google Fees’, the drafts of the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) remain on the air, two rules that for copyright and competition reasons could result in a situation similar to the Australian one.

What Google has done. Force until an agreement is reached

Google has spent years taking advantage of the position of need that its traffic causes to the media to keep the debate on standby. However, given the Australian urgency, cases such as ceasing to provide the service were considered. That would have resulted in the first country without Google beyond China and other authoritarian states.

“It’s as if they force you to pay the bill for all the cafes in the city for having recommended a few to a friend”Google complained in an open letter.

However, after this first threat, Google changed course and announced its predisposition to an agreement. Google has announced deals with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Seven West Media. No financial details have been released. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. is in negotiations.

It is important that both in Australia and in France Google has reached agreements for undisclosed amounts with specific means. In the background is Google Showcase, a new feature announced by Google in October last year in which, with a fund of 1,000 million dollars per year, media that will be ‘featured partners’ will be paid to show their news on this new tab.

Google News Showcase would become a kind of showcase with these partners – they have also reached agreements in Germany and the United Kingdom – where selected media could choose which news to feature prominently. In Spain, the use of this functionality is pending a transposition of the European regulations that would repeal the article of the Spanish Intellectual Property Law that would permanently eliminate what remains of the AEDE canon. According to El Confidencial published a few weeks ago, some Spanish media are already negotiating with Google individually.

What Facebook has done: cut to the chase

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of FacebookMark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

Facebook however has not gone through the hoop. Mark Zuckerberg’s company has prohibited linking to Australian media on its platform, causing a decrease in visits in some media of up to 20%.

The case of Facebook differs from that of Google because in its social networks the traffic is not so dependent on the news. And, for once, it seems that his decision is alienated (albeit for his own benefit) with the original postulates of the network. The creator of the website, Sir Tim Berners Lee, said it clearly when asked: paying to link would break the concept of the internet.

The effects of something like this on a global scale on Facebook could also be perverse. If in all countries Facebook made the decision not to link to media, fake news and questionable content would have a higher representation share even if it fits.

A paradigm shift that could change the web, and benefit a few

The regulations that arise in Australia and Europe, however, are being resolved in a way that can disrupt and much the operation of the web in general.

The agreements that Google is reaching are produced with established media. Blogs or small media do not enter, at least for now, in talks to benefit from Google Showcase funds, which at the time was nonetheless seen as a kick forward by Google to curb other fees.

In The Verge the analyst Casey Newton proposed these days a model that did not create different categories or consolidations of the information according to the medium that publishes it: that through taxes on the profits of Google or Facebook in each state (such as the 3% that it intends charge Spain to the big-tech) part of these funds is passed on in the improvement of journalism.

The article The Australian war between Google, Facebook and the media that can shape the future was published in Explica.co.