The logos of Facebook and Google apps displayed on a tablet.
Denis Charlet | AFP via Getty Images
Australia is on track to the push through the legislation that would require digital platforms to pay for news, according to the country’s communications minister.
“This bill will pass into law fairly soon,” Fletcher said. “The democratically elected government of Australia expects that businesses that are doing business in Australia will comply with our laws.”
The media bill was introduced in parliament last December. Referred to as the “news media bargaining code,” it would require digital platforms to pay local media outlets and publishers to link their content in news feeds or search results. If both sides are unable to reach a commercial deal, government-appointed arbitrators can decide on the price.
Fletcher was part of an Australian delegation that held a conversation with Google CEO Sundar Pichai to discuss the contentious bill and its implications. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg were also at that meeting.
He explained that while it was made clear to Google that the Australian government does not want to see the search engine or Facebook leave the market, they are still expected to comply with the law of the land.
“We have seen from time to time over the last few years, big tech companies — typically U.S. tech companies — make threats about leaving Australia if they weren’t happy with our regulatory settings,” he said, drawing comparisons with Amazon a few years back.
The e-commerce giant temporarily barred Australians from access to products from its main website in 2018 to comply with changes in local tax laws, but later walked back on that decision, according to media reports.
The media bargaining code is undergoing a senate enquiry at the moment.
Google argues that the current version of the proposed legislation does not work for its products and services in Australia, but says it’s willing to pay publishers for value.
Australia’s competition watchdog said in September that for every 100 Australian dollars ($77.26) spent by advertisers online in 2019, Google took A$53, Facebook got A$28 and just A$19 went to other websites and advertising tech.
Fletcher said there are concerns Google has a near-monopoly status in the search market, and that the government’s main reason for the law is that it wants Google and Facebook to do “satisfactory commercial agreements” with Australian news media businesses.
“When you have that extraordinary degree of market power, then perhaps you don’t feel under the same ordinary commercial pressure to do deals with other market participants,” Fletcher said. “That’s why we’re coming in with this backstop of this legislative process where if a commercial deal is not done, then there is the power for this compulsory arbitration process to occur.”
Analysts say the law in Australia could set the precedence for regulators in other countries in dealing with Big Tech.
We’d expect that the market would respond and other providers of search services would come into the market and … very quickly, we’d expect their search offerings to adapt to the greater demand.
Minister for communications, Australia
If Google decides to withdraw its product from Australia, it could allow other search engines, including DuckDuckGo and Microsoft’s Bing, to expand their market share. That’s the argument from both the government and the competition watch dog.
“We’d expect that the market would respond and other providers of search services would come into the market, and of course, very quickly, we’d expect their search offerings to adapt to the greater demand,” Fletcher said.
The communications minister also said he’s been using the DuckDuckGo search engine on mobile for about six months. “I found it to be perfectly fine,” he said.
Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey
Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.
Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.
However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.
On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.
Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal
In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.
In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.
Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws
It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.
Russian social media laws
As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.
Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses
Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.
The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.
With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.
Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.
Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.