Decoding | Why The Australian Showdown Matters on Facebook

Why has Facebook banned news media content from its Australian platform since Thursday? Because Australia wants to force Mark Zuckerberg’s company to pay for the press content circulating on its platforms. If the media around the world focus on this Australian showdown, it is because its outcome could inspire other countries, including Canada, to act. A summary of six questions.

Vincent Brosso BeaulieuVincent Brosso Beaulieu

Why Facebook has banned journalistic content in Australia?

In Australia, a bill is about to pass that would force Google and Facebook to agree with the media to pay royalties (otherwise the arbitrator will set the royalty threshold). This will be the most restrictive law in this regard among the G20 countries. Faced with the impending adoption of the bill, Facebook on Thursday banned press content from its Australian platforms. The country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, has called on Facebook to end these “threats” and resume discussions with the media. Discussions resumed on Friday.

Why is this worried about Canada?

Canada plans to pass a similar law to force Google and Facebook to pay media money. Ottawa wants to schedule its bill in 2021. “What is Facebook doing [en Australie] “It’s extremely irresponsible,” said Federal Minister for Canadian Heritage, Stephen Gilbo.

Australia is the real battleground on this issue. If Google and Facebook agree to pay royalties in Australia, they will not be able to hold back in other countries. But these agreements [entre les géants numériques et les médias] It only happens when there is a law [obligeant un partage des revenus] Says John Hinds, President and CEO of News Media Canada, an organization representing more than 100 print news outlets (including Journalism).

Why do the media want royalties?

They argue that Google and Facebook are advertising giants profiting from their press content. University of Quebec in Montreal journalism professor Jean Hughes Roy says that 20% of the most popular content on Facebook in Canada came from news media. However, the more time a user spends on Facebook (especially thanks to journalistic content), the more Facebook knows what they like, and the more Facebook’s ability to sell targeted ads to it.

“It is too expensive [sur Facebook]”It’s having our eyes read a message,” says Pierre LaRouche, professor of competition law at the University of Montreal. Facebook maintains a person’s interest and ability to send advertising messages to it [avec du contenu journalistique de qualité]. Facebook says it sends a bunch of people to media sites, but then people come back to Facebook [après la lecture]. This is not what will help newspapers replenish their vaults, especially since a large portion of the advertising money has gone out of the media to go to Facebook and Google. According to the Carleton University Research Group, Facebook and Google account for 80% of online ads and 45% of media ads in 2019.

Why doesn’t Facebook want to pay?

Mark Zuckerberg estimates that it doesn’t make any money from journalistic content, which is 4% of the content on users’ news feeds. Of course, press content allows us – just like any content – to better define every user / customer on Facebook to sell their ads. But the company argues that the algorithm can well identify the user / client without the news.

Facebook faced criticism this week by blocking journalistic content from its platforms in Australia. But within the tech community, many believe Facebook is fundamentally right.

“Facebook is right in this case,” says Michael Guest, professor of Internet law at the University of Ottawa. “Facebook does not publish the content, it is the media or users who publish it on their pages. The advertisement has shifted from news media to Facebook, but it has nothing to do with it.” [avec le contenu journalistique sur Facebook]. This is because displaying Facebook ads is better and more accurate for advertisers. ”

“Should Videotron pay to use the content because we used its network? No,” said Chris Arsenault, partner at Montreal venture capital company iNovia. “I understand this is a difficult question, but if a user is transferring content, then Facebook shouldn’t push the media.”

Why did Google agree to pay?

For its part, Google has struck deals with Australian media, including the country’s largest media group, News Corp. Owned by Robert Murdoch. The royalty limit earned by News Corp. Not disclosed. In general, Google has more commercial ties with the media than Facebook. Professor Pierre La Roche says, “Because it is in his interest to have cooperation with the media, he has a more conciliatory position.”

Should we regulate Facebook?

This week’s episode in Australia leads to another debate: Should Facebook be regulated due to its dominant position as a social network and the importance of social networks in society?

Other important industries are regulated. In Canada, for example, most radio and television stations will not be able to separate news due to their licensing terms.

“It shows how important monopoly regulation is,” says John Hinds of News Media Canada. “The fact that Facebook can have a huge impact shows that Facebook has a lot of power.”

“We cannot get butter and money from butter,” says Professor Pierre LaRouche. If a social network plays a central role in the company and there is no competition, then it probably should not make decisions alone. “

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