Australia requires Facebook to pay for news: lessons for Vietnam
Australia has been at the forefront of an uphill battle against tech giants, though it's still at a starting point.
Global technology companies must not be outlawed, especially when so many things are at stake, said Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
It was on a summer day in 2019 that the ACCC presented the Australian Prime Minister with a 623-page report full of charts and figures showing a sharp decline in local journalism.
This report signaled the beginning of a seemingly unequal battle between the press agencies and the cross-border tech titans known as Big Tech.
A revolutionary bill
Facebook responded to the Australian bill by blocking all Australian news on this social network.
In February this year, Australia's News Media Bargaining Code law officially went into effect, dealing a blow to the social networking empire Facebook and the search giant Google.
This new media law is the result of a three-year preparation process, promoted by the Australian government and drafted by the ACCC.
Between 2017-2019, the ACCC produced eight reports to analyze the correlation between journalism and digital platforms such as Facebook and Google.
In April 2020, the Australian government asked the ACCC to draft a mandatory bill, the first and unprecedented in the world. A bill was submitted to the Australian Senate and House of Representatives for the first time in late 2020, approved by both houses and taking effective immediately from February 25, 2021.
This happened in the context that Big Tech are increasingly expanding and swallowing up the market share of the press. With their own algorithms, Facebook or Google have collected the best pieces of cake, taking news content without a fair share of revenue.
Australia has made history with a bill aimed at any technology company that unfairly competes and pirates news content.
What's in Australia’s new media law?
The Australia's News Media Bargaining Code is not a direct tool to collect money from Facebook or Google, but it acts as an arbitrator and pressures digital platforms.
The provisions in this act are generally favorable to the media, ranging from very small local newspapers to news agencies with a presence in Australia such as electronic editions of the US News Corp. or The Guardian and the Daily Mail of the UK.
Facebook was, of course, the one who reacted the most when the bill was passed on February 25, but finally it had to give in.
The bill was also amended at the last minute to give the media the power to renegotiate, and the government will appoint the body to act as arbitrator when negotiations fail.
Eventually, Facebook reached a deal with News Corp and Nine Entertainment in an undisclosed agreement that amounts to several million US dollars a year.
Recently, Facebook continued to make concessions and pay smaller news outlets in the form of fund grants. The amount of the deal was not disclosed, but Facebook and the Country Press Australia (CPA) signed an open letter leading to a joint agreement for years to come.
CPA is the organization representing 81 news publishers with 160 local publications spread across Australia. The CPA has been authorized by the ACCC to work with Facebook and Google in reclaiming money from digital platforms.
What opportunities for other countries?
Facebook finally had to give in to sit down at the negotiating table with news agencies in Australia. (Photo: CEO Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and CEO Robert Thomson of News Corp.)
Australia has paved the way for countries like the US, UK or France to figure out how to monetize Facebook and Google or at least put pressure on Big Tech to share the pie more evenly.
This pressure has somewhat worked outside of Australia. Accordingly, Google has to implement News Showcase as a way to pay content royalties to the press with an initial commitment of about $1 billion. This feature is currently available in eight countries: the UK, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Czech Republic and India.
Facebook is also rolling out a News section in the UK with an undisclosed fee for news royalties. This social network is planning to invest $1 billion over the next three years to support journalism globally.
This means that press agencies in Vietnam will also be included in the plans of Facebook and Google. But to make this process go faster, a draft law that forces cross-border platforms to pay news agencies is something to be reckoned with.
At least the authorities need to tighten the operation of Facebook and Google in Vietnam according to the existing regulations on taxes, the Law on Cybersecurity and the Law on Competition. Only then will Big Tech sit down to the negotiating table to come to an agreement that will bring fairness to the content publishing industry in general and the press in particular.
Nguyen Truong Son, Standing Vice President and General Secretary of the Vietnam Advertising Association, said: "More than 80% of advertising revenue falls into the hands of Facebook and Google." The advertising pie of Vietnam's online newspapers is increasingly being encroached on by cross-border platforms such as Facebook and Google while these platforms rely a lot on the information of electronic newspapers, which is shared by users.
The leader of a local newspaper said that it seems that Google has a policy of loosening the payment for Vietnamese electronic newspapers, but Facebook is a stingy "guy" who is making money on the backs of Vietnamese electronic newspapers and their pay is so low that the newspapers no longer care. This is unacceptable. However, if Vietnamese online newspapers do not join hands like other countries, Facebook will still make money on their backs.
As the world is curbing the influence of tech giants, this presents an opportunity for Vietnamese social networks to create a foothold by finding their own directions.
From September 15, cross-border platforms such as Facebook and Google will have to remove ads in violation of regulations within 24 hours after receiving a notice from the Ministry of Communications and Information.