Australia Australia passes a news media law that requires Google to pay Facebook

A search for ‘Australia Australia News’ on Google’s homepage set up on a desktop computer in Sydney, Australia on Friday 22 January 2021.

David Gray | Bloomberg by Getty Images

Australia Australia has passed a new law requiring local media outlets and publishers to pay for linking their content to news feeds or in search results to digital platforms such as Facebook and Google.

The move was widely expected and comes just days after the government introduced some last-minute amendments to the proposed bill, officially known as the News Media and Digital Platforms Compulsory Bargaining Code.

Treasurer Josh Friedenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement that the code would ensure that news media businesses receive a fair return for the content they create and that Australia helps maintain public interest journalism in Australia.

They added that the government was “pleased to see progress made by both Google and recently Facebook in reaching a commercial arrangement with Google’s Australian news media businesses.”

Officials said the law will be reviewed by the Treasury within a year of its inception.

What did Facebook and Google do?

Both Facebook and Google have been fighting the law since last year.

Inevitably, Australia will be the first country where a government-appointed arbitrator can decide on the final price to be paid to either platform Australian Australian News Publishers, although the business deal cannot be reached independently.

Experts say the lack of space for a mid-ground agreement – digital platform or publisher – will rule in favor of both parties.

In this week’s amendment, the government said the parties involved would receive a two-month mediation period for the broker deal, before they could be entered into arbitration as a last resort.

Facebook announced on Monday that it would restore news pages in the proposed Australia, reversing an earlier decision to block news blockchains in Australia in retaliation against a subsequent proposed bill.

Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president for global news partnerships, said Tuesday that the Australian government has made it clear that the tech company will retain the ability to decide whether news comes on its platform so that it is not automatically subject to overwhelming negotiations.

Google initially threatened to pull its search function from Search Australia. In recent weeks, however, it has struck a number of well-known commercial deals with Australian publishers, including the Murdoch-owned media conglomerate Newscorp.

Australia’s new law could set a precedent for how other countries regulate Big Tech. Countries like France have taken some steps to pay tech companies for the news, while others like Canada and the UK are considering their next steps.