ABC News reported Facebook will walk back its block on Australian users sharing news on its site after the government agreed to make amendments to the proposed media bargaining laws that would force major tech giants to pay news outlets for their content.
This decision is a result of negotiations between the Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. ABC News quoted Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as saying, “Mark Zuckerberg said to me today [restoring pages] will occur in coming days.”
Facebook updated its post on its Facebook Journalism Project (that was originally about the company’s decision to restrict the availability of Australian news on Facebook) with this:
“After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers. We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation. It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook.”
Personally, I am skeptical of Facebook’s claim that it has always been their intention to support journalism in Australia. If it cared about supporting news publishers it would not have banned Australian News. That decision caused collateral damage as it also resulted in blocking Australian and local news to Fiji, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Facebook’s decision also enabled anti-vaccine misinformation to spread widely since real Australian news organizations were unable to respond to and correct the misinformation in those posts. This happened at the very beginning of Australia’s vaccine rollout. In short, Facebook’s attempt to avoid paying for news may have resulted in vaccine hesitancy among some Australians.
Australia’s ABC News App has become extremely popular with Australians, who can no longer access local and country-wide news on Facebook. The app is a resource that connects users with news content created by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It is available on the App Store and Google Play.
As you may have heard, Facebook blocked all Australian news content from Australian news publishers. Facebook chose this drastic measure in an effort to avoid complying with legislation called the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which would require platforms like Facebook to pay news organizations for their content.
Facebook got overzealous in deciding what to remove, and blocked Australian government accounts, state health departments, weather information, and even Facebook’s own Facebook page. Other collateral damage included blocking emergency services, public officials, food banks and charities. It is my understanding that some of that has been restored.
Financial Times’ Uma Patel tweeted: “ABC has used facebook’s ban to prompt visitors to download its app… it became the most downloaded app in Australia… although the next four are all owned by Facebook and the sixth is a company fb tried to buy.”
I think this is a good sign! Australians who have grown accustomed to scrolling through news on Facebook on their phone can replace that with ABC’s News App. I’m hoping that this inspires more news organizations to create their own news apps. The result could influence people to spend less time on Facebook.
There is another good reason for news organizations to make their own apps (or to advertise their existing ones). Facebook is likely to engage in the same shenanigans it imposed on its Australian users when other countries create legislation that is similar to Australia’s ACCC. When that happens, people will immediately be able to use their favorite news app to get their news.
Facebook has retaliated against the people of Australia by removing all content from Australian news publishers off of its platform. This is Facebook’s latest temper tantrum about an Australian law that would require Facebook (and Google) to pay news organizations for their content.
The law Facebook is angry about is called the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). It is a mandatory code that would cover issues like the sharing of data, ranking news content online and the sharing of revenue generated from the news. The law will be enforced through penalties and sanctions and will include a binding dispute resolution process.
Facebook posted the following on their Newsroom blog:
…Unfortunately, this means people and news organizations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook. Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted. To do this, we are using a combination of technologies to restrict news content and we will have processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed…
In June of 2020, Facebook whined that it and Google were being “singled out” unfairly by this law. Facebook stated: “If there were no news content available on Facebook in Australia, we are confident that the impact on Facebook’s community metrics and revenues in Australia would not be significant.”
It seems to me that if Facebook believes that Facebook’s revenue would not significantly change by removing Australian news – it means Facebook can easily afford to pay for it.
NBC News reported that as of today, Australian users and publishers would not be able to post news content to its social network after the Australian government threatened to force it to pay news publishers. According to NBC News, Australian publishers will be restricted from sharing or posting content to their company pages. News publishers outside of Australia can still post articles, but Australians will not be able to view them.
According to NBC News, Google has decided that it will pay news publishers for their content. Google will remunerate French newspapers based on contributions to political and general information, daily volume of publications and monthly internet audience.
France is pushing for changes to the EU’s legislation that would force big tech companies to pay for the news, Financial Times reported. It appears France wants changes that would allow member states to wield more power to punish bad behavior and police more types of content.
French officials want to see changes to the EU’s Digital Service Act, which sets out the responsibilities of Big Tech companies when it comes to policing the web.
Paris wants every member state to have the right to fine tech platforms and force them to remove illegal content. Currently, only countries where tech companies have their headquarters can enforce the EU’s laws.
As a result, Ireland and Luxembourg, where Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are based, have disproportionate responsibilities in regulating Big Tech.
Financial Times reported that France is also pushing for the DSA to widen beyond illegal content to the policing of harmful content and disinformation. Apparently, EU officials have concerns that France’s proposals will erode the EU’s single market.
The EU has begun working on two landmark draft European digital regulations: The Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA).
The DSA creates a common set of rules on intermediaries’ obligations and accountability across the single market that will open up opportunities to provide digital services across borders while ensuring user protection. It also establishes criteria for qualifying a large online program as a “gatekeeper”. The DMA includes fines of up to 10% of the “gatekeeper” platform’s total worldwide annual turnover, periodic payments of up to 5% of the average daily turnover, or additional remedies.
In short, it means that companies like Facebook and Google will have to pay news organizations for the news that the platforms post. Both companies used scare tactics to sway the opinion of Australians when their government made a similar law. I expect they will do the same to the EU law.
Financial Times reported that the EU has created legislation that would force big tech companies to pay for news. This comes after a similar Code of Conduct was proposed in Australia that would require companies like Google and Facebook to share revenue with the Australian news organizations.
The EU is working on two landmark draft European digital regulations: The Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA).
The DSA is a common set of rules on intermediaries’ obligations and accountability across the single market that will open up opportunities to provide digital services across borders, while ensuring a high level of protection to all users, no matter where they live in the EU. The DMA establishes a set of narrowly defined objective criteria for qualifying a large online platform as a so-called “gatekeeper”. This allows the DMA to remain well targeted to the problem that it aims to tackle as regards large, systemic online platforms.
Consequences of non-compliance to the DMA include: fines of up to 10% of the company’s total worldwide annual turnover, periodic penalty payments of up to 5% of the average daily turnover, and additional remedies imposed in the case of systematic infringements of the DMA.
Facebook rejected the proposal by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). According to The Guardian, Facebook said “If there were no news content available on Facebook in Australia, we are confident the impact on Facebook’s community metrics and revenues in Australia would not be significant”.
In August of 2020, Google started targeting Australians with pop-up ads that linked to an open letter. The letter had a bright yellow caution sign at the top. In my opinion, the letter was intended as a scare tactic to sway Australians against the Code of Conduct. The chair of the ACCC stated that Google’s letter “contains misinformation.”
Based on those responses to the ACCC, I suspect that both Facebook, and Google, are going to issue thinly veiled threats (and, potentially, misinformation) at consumers who live in the EU in an effort to persuade people to turn against the EU’s Digital Services Act. When big companies resort to scare tactics to avoid regulation – it emphasizes just how badly those platforms need to be regulated. They clearly have the money to pay news organizations for their work.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has shared its opinion about Facebook’s full-page newspaper ad campaign against Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency feature on iPhones. The EFF described Facebook’s campaign as “laughable”.
Facebook claimed that Apple’s new AppTrackingTransparancy for iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14 “will hurt small businesses who benefit from access to targeted advertising services.” EFF points out that Facebook is not telling you the whole story. Facebook’s complaint, according to EFF, is what Facebook stands to lose if its users learn more about exactly what it and other data brokers are up to behind the scenes.
Bottom line: “The Association of National Advertisers estimates that, when the “ad tech tax” is taken into account, publishers are only taking home between 30 and 40 cents of every dollar [spent on ads]”. The rest goes to third-party data brokers who keep the lights on by exploiting your information, and not to small businesses trying to work within a broken system to reach their customers.
EFF pointed out that small businesses cannot compete with large ad distribution networks on their own. Because the ad industry has promoted this fantasy that targeted advertising is superior to other methods of reaching customers, anything else will inherently command less value on ad markets, EFF reported.
Personally, I think EFF did an excellent job of explaining why Facebook’s “laughable” campaign is a problem. Facebook is worried that Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency feature will hurt Facebook’s chance to make money off the data it collects from its users.
This has nothing to do with an attempt to help small businesses. In my opinion, Facebook realizes that people don’t like to be tracked, and that targeted ads can be creepy. What we are seeing is Facebook having a panic attack about the amount of money they could lose after Apple, by default, prevents apps from collecting and sharing people’s data.
Apple has responded to Facebook’s criticisms about Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 update. Specifically, Facebook appears to be angry that the update will require people to opt-in to targeted advertising and tracking.
Apple provided a statement to MacRumors about the update:
We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites – and they should have the choice to allow that or not. App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires that they give users a choice.
Personally, I think that Apple’s decision to allow users to know when their data is being collected – and to have the choice to allow it or not – is a good one. I live in California, which enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). It requires that business that collect a consumer’s personal information must inform consumers about the categories of personal information to be collected and the purposes for which is it used. This must be done before the point of collection. It also allows people to tell a business not to sell their personal information to third parties.
Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 update sounds like it is in compliance with the CCPA. It might also comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which also regulates data protection.
One of the best things about Apple’s iOS 14 update is that the default setting is to alert all users about how a specific app will use their data. Users don’t have to figure out how to prevent data collection and tracking – Apple already does that for them. That said, if you really want Facebook (and other apps) to collect your data, and sell it to third-parties, you will have the ability to opt-in to that.