The US Is Not Happy About Australia Forcing Facebook And Google To Pay For News

The US Is Not Happy About Australia Forcing Facebook And Google To Pay For News
Donald Trump shouts at members of the media in October 2019. (Photo: Win McNamee, Getty Images)
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In the on-going battle between Australia and tech giants Facebook and Google over a plan to force them to pay for news, a new player has appeared: the US government.

Last year, the Federal Government shared its legislation for the news media bargaining code, which would make Facebook and Google have to sit down with Australian publishers to negotiate payment for displaying their content.

The bill was sent to committee — meaning it’ll be considered by a smaller group of politicians who will prepare a report suggesting potential changes before going back to Parliament to be voted on — who called for submissions.

And would you believe, the Trump administration has a thought or two about forcing US companies to pay for something. Specifically: stop it.

A letter sent from U.S. assistant trade representatives, Daniel Bahar and Karl Ehlers, urges the Australian government redraft the law.

They highlight three particular areas of concern: that it discriminates against two US companies, that it doesn’t consider the costs of Facebook and Google, and that the code’s “non-discrimination” rule (that stops the tech platforms from just ditching Australian news) is impractical.

“As set forth in these comments, the U.S. Government is concerned that an attempt, through legislation, to regulate the competitive positions of specific players in a fast-evolving digital market, to the clear detriment of two U.S. firms, may result in harmful outcomes. There may also be long-lasting negative consequences for U.S. and Australian firms, as well as Australian consumers,” the letter says.

“We respectfully request that Australia reconsider whether legislation is needed.”

The US’s letter essentially reiterates an earlier submission they made to the ACCC consultation when developing the news media bargaining code — so there’s no reason to expect the Australian Government will change its tune on this now.

The Economics Legislation Committee is expected to publish their report on the Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 by 12 February 2021.