Australia sticks by principled stand on Big Tech, won’t amend laws: Australian Finance Minister

On Monday, in a significant development that marks Australia taking on big tech, Canberra said it will stick to its principled stand and will not change its proposed laws that takes on Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google forcing them to pay for news content, despite vocal opposition from the Big Tech firms.

Facebook has reacted to the development: last week it abruptly blocked all news content along with several state government and emergency department accounts.

Australian leaders continued discussions with facebook over these abrupt changes over the weekend.

Australia’s bill is scheduled for a debate in the Senate later today, with most Australian senior lawmakers in the country’s upper house saying, they will not amend the bill any further.

“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” said Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance.

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”.

Australia’s bill will provide the government a right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.

Last week, Google 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,” said Birmingham.

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

DIGI, a lobby group which represents Facebook, Google and Twitter said, its members had agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to reduce the spread of fake news and misinformation online.

Their adoption of of an industry-wide code of practice is a voluntary code, under which they have committed to identifying and stop “bots”, from disseminating content, informing users of the origin of the content and publish an annual transparency report, among other measures.


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