Australia’s New Social Media Legislation

By Kristin Acheson
Marketing Writer

The news industry in its latest transition to digital is reevaluating the relationship between publishers and social media companies.  (Photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio on Unsplash)

Social media has turned the way news is shared on its head in the last fifteen years switching from the newspaper and television to personalized social media accounts. According to Forbes, 36% of social media users use Facebook for news while YouTube, a Google subsidiary, comes in at 21% of users. Most people who are on social media come across news at some point and look to social media for both entertainment and information. Now more than ever, knowing what is happening in the world is important for personal safety and sanity in the form of maintaining connection with the world. In the last couple of weeks, Australia put forth a proposed law that would require Google and Facebook to compensate media publishers for the content they put out on their sites. In retaliation, Facebook blocked legitimate news outlets which caused an influx of false claims about the COVID-19 vaccinations. Google threatened to block their search engine entirely in the country. On the other hand, Microsoft is working towards paying these small publishers and news organizations for their content in the EU. After tech giants Facebook and Google initially balked at the legislation and decided that it was better to block news sources than pay the publishers for their work, these parties have returned to the negotiation table. Any news organization that makes over 150,000 dollars in annual revenue could be entitled to this compensation. The negotiations are still ongoing with terminology such as “final arbitration” which assumes there will be an independent arbitrator that values the payments for each news source.

The internet is a difficult place to pass legislation on due to its wide and confusing reach and limited legal precedent. Therefore, at times like this when a proposed law is close to being enacted it is an interesting time in the future of the way the internet can be used. The interconnected nature of the Internet has made global economies and legal systems even more connected, meaning that change in one location may indicate impending change in others. Countries, including Canada, are looking for ways that they can pass this new legislation in their own countries although there is no timeline for this proposal yet. The “The News Industry is Being Destroyed” episode from Netflix’s original show the Patriot Act shows that local news sources make up half of the original reporting, but employees are underpaid with the amount of work they do. Working towards social media companies compensating news sources for the work they do is a step in the right direction. News publishers and social media companies share the common problem of false news that could be addressed with this mutual collaboration by ensuring news outlets have the means necessary to create reliable content.


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