Australian Code of Conduct to Make Social Media Companies Pay for News

The Australian federal government has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to create a mandatory code of conduct that would require companies like Google and Facebook to pay media companies for news. This comes after the ACCC advised that reaching a voluntary agreement with the big social media companies to pay for content would be “unlikely”.

The mandatory code will cover issues including the sharing of data, ranking of news content online and the sharing of revenue generated from the news. It will be enforced through penalties and sanctions and will include a binding dispute resolution process.

A draft of the mandatory code of conduct will be released in July of 2020. The voluntary code of conduct negotiations were expected to run until November. But, the mandatory code of conduct is now being created in part because COVID-19 has “exacerbated financial woes within the media sector.”

The Guardian reported that the mandatory code of conduct would force Facebook and Google to pay news media for their content, advise news media in advance of algorithm changes that would affect content rankings, favor original source and new content in search page results, and share data with media companies. At least some of this was also in the voluntary version of the code of conduct.

I find this fascinating because, if the Australian mandatory code of conduct is put in place, it could set a precedent for other countries to make one of their own. Obviously, Google and Facebook will fight against this, as they are quite used to receiving plenty of content for free while paying the content creators little to nothing.

It has become common for people to seek news online rather than through a newspaper subscription. It seems only fair that news organizations should be financially compensated for their content that big social media companies financially benefit from.