Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments

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Australia will not alter legislation that would make Facebook and Google pay news outlets for content, a senior lawmaker said, as the Aussie government neared a final vote on whether to pass the bill into law.

Australia and the tech giants have been in a stand-off over the legislation widely seen as setting a global precedent. Other countries including the likes of Canada and the UK have already expressed interest in taking similar actions.

Facebook has protested the laws. Last week it blocked all news content and several state government and emergency department accounts, in a jolt to the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the big tech platforms of the technological revolution.

Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekend yielded no significant breakthrough.

As Australia’s senate began debating the legislation, the country’s most senior lawmaker in the upper house said there would be no further amendments.

“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.

The bill in its present form ensures “Australian-generated news content by Australian-generated news organisations can and should be paid for and done so in a fair and legitimate way”.

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The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.

While both Google and Facebook have campaigned against the laws, Google last week inked deals with top Australian outlets, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

“There’s no reason Facebook can’t do and achieve what Google already has,” Birmingham added.

A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday on the legislation, which passed the lower house last week and has majority support in the Senate.

Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms like Twitter, meanwhile said that its members had agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.

Under the voluntary code, they commit to identifying and stopping unidentified accounts, or “bots”, disseminating content; informing users of the origins of content; and publishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed the ‘Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments‘ article. Translation from English to other languages via Google Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham. Editing by Sam Holmes and Hugh Lawson.

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