February 24, 2021 11:10:20 AM IST
Microsoft is working with European publishers to advance a system that will allow big tech platforms to pay for news and is upping the ante in Australia’s brewing battle over Google and Facebook to pay for journalism. The Seattle-based tech giant and four large groups in the European Union’s information industry announced on Monday plans to work together on a solution to “enforce payments” for content use on the Internet. Information from “online gatekeepers with dominant market power”.
They said they would “take inspiration” from proposed laws in Australia to force technology platforms to share their revenues with news companies. This includes arbitration to settle disputes over a fair price for the news.
Facebook last week blocked Australians from accessing and sharing information on its platform in response to government proposals. However, the surprise move sparked a major public backlash and fueled the debate about the power of the social network. From Tuesday Facebook said it would lift the ban about Australians seeing and sharing news on their platform. Google, meanwhile, took a different approach, cutting down payment deals with news agencies after abandoning its initial threat to shut down its search engine to Australians.
(Also read: Facebook and Google are diverging sharply due to new Australian media laws.)
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has expressed his support for Australia as the latest sign that Facebook’s decision has turned against him.
“I find it very regrettable that a platform takes such decisions to protest against the laws of a country,” Breton told the EU legislator. “It’s up to the platforms to adapt to regulators, not the other way around,” he said, adding that what is happening in Australia “highlights an attitude that needs to change”. Breton leads the EU’s major overhaul of digital regulations to tame the power of big tech companies and grows amid growing concerns that their algorithms are undermining democracy.
Microsoft works with two lobby groups, the European Publishers Council and News Media Europe, and two groups that represent publishers of European newspapers and magazines representing thousands of titles. The company has expressed its support for Australia’s plans that could help increase the market share of its Bing search engine.
The countries of the European Union are working to adopt by June the revised copyright rules set by the EU executive, which will allow news organizations and publishers to negotiate payments from digital platforms for the online use of their content.
However, there are concerns about an imbalance in bargaining power between the two sides and the group has called for new measures to be added to the upcoming digital regulation revision to address the issue.
Publishers “may not have the economic strength to negotiate fair and equitable deals with these controlling technology companies that could otherwise threaten to withdraw from negotiations or exit the markets altogether,” the group said in a joint statement. Google and Facebook opposed the arbitrage because it would give them less control over payment negotiations.
Facebook did not respond to a request for a comment. Google announced that it already has hundreds of partnerships with news publishers across Europe, making it one of the biggest funders of journalism, and noted on Twitter that it works with publishers and policymakers across the EU when member countries regulate copyright laws incorporate into national law.
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