‘Zuckerberg Didn’t Convince Me to Back Down’: Australian Treasurer

‘Zuckerberg Didn’t Convince Me to Back Down’: Australian Treasurer

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to discuss an impending new law that will force the tech giants to pay local media for display their news content.

The Facebook CEO, however, was unable to shift the Australian government’s position on introducing the News Media Bargaining Code.

The treasurer revealed on ABC Insiders that last week Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and himself had a “very constructive discussion” with Zuckerberg about the Code and its “impact on Facebook.”

When pressed on whether Zuckerberg was able to change his mind, Frydenberg responded, “Mark Zuckerberg didn’t convince me to back down, if that’s what you are asking.”

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg returns from a recess as he testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on “An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors” in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, on Oct. 23, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The treasurer has stated repeatedly that the Media Code was being watched closely around the world. He revealed that rival tech giant Microsoft was watching the developments closely.

“The Prime Minister has spoken to the CEO and president of Microsoft, as you know they’ve got Microsoft Bing,” he said.

“They’re watching this very closely and, no doubt, see opportunities in Australia to expand too,” he added. “This is world leading, what we’re doing.”

The Australian government is currently implementing its News Media Bargaining Code that will set out a process whereby news media companies can negotiate a payment deal with Google and Facebook.

For years, the tech giants have generated large amounts of web traffic and engagement from displaying news content at no cost. In turn, they monetised the traffic by selling advertising.

The Media Code was created partly to address this issue and to “level the playing field” between the digital giants and local news companies.

Frydenberg previously stated, “For every $100 spent by advertisers in Australia on online advertising … $47 goes to Google, $24 to Facebook and $29 to other participants.”

Both Google and Facebook have stated that they were prepared to remove news content entirely from their platforms to avoid paying news media publishers.

Epoch Times Photo
The logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google on a smartphone in Sydney, Australia, on Dec. 9, 2020 (The Epoch Times)

Last week, Google went a step further and told a Senate committee that as a last resort it would consider withdrawing the Google Search service entirely from Australia, opening a door for potential competitors Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo! to enter the market.

Dr. Rob Nicholls, associate professor at the University of New South Wales and competition law expert, previously told The Epoch Times that the strong response from Silicon Valley was over fears the Australian Media Code could usher in a domino-effect of global regulation.

“(The Media Code) will also embolden other jurisdictions to push for a similar outcome as in France, or as proposed in Australia,” he said.

Google recently agreed to pay 300 French news publishers to display their content.

Australian regulators have opened up several fronts in their battle to regulate the digital giants including scrutiny of Google’s acquisition of FitBit, and a pending court action against Facebook for secretly harvesting personal data through a subsidiary.

Last week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a new report on Google’s multi-billion dollar online advertising business.

“Google’s significant presence across the whole ad tech supply chain, combined with its significant data advantage, means Google is likely to have the ability and the incentive to preference its own ad tech businesses in ways that affect competition,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

The ACCC is exploring potential ways to break the tech giant’s dominance of this area.

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