A new proposal by Australia’s Parliament would force big tech companies to share profits with independent new organizations who use their platforms to post news coverage.
As the internet’s popularity grew over the past twenty years, traditional media like newspapers have seen a monumental drop in subscribers. Now that news is updated almost instantly, print media has become virtually obsolete, forcing publishers to post their stories online. Search engines are able to compile coverage into one page, such as Google News, so readers can easily scroll between different news organizations to get a variety of information. And Social media sites like Facebook have created a platform for people to easily access and share stories in one place. In fact, Pew Research Center found that 53% of adults currently get their news from social media platforms.
Australia’s Parliament is suggesting that companies like Google and Facebook should be sharing revenue with news organizations that have content on their platforms. Because ad revenue is generated by clicks, these platforms generate a great deal of income simply by sharing links to other company sites. One study found that Google indirectly brought in $4.7 billion by pulling content from outside publishers. The proposal would allow smaller news organizations to benefit from the exposure that search engines and social media platforms regularly benefit from.
The idea has already received a polarizing response from tech companies, with some being more extreme than others. For instance, Google immediately threatened that if Australia’s Parliament were to follow through with the proposal, the company would pull it’s search engine out of the country. Facebook held a similar position, saying that users on all Facebook owned platforms would no longer be able to share news if the ruling went through. On the other hand, Microsoft supported the idea, and was open to sharing revenue through it’s search engine Bing even if other tech companies decided to opt out.
It would seem like a reasonable proposition for these tech giants to compensate smaller organizations who are producing content that helps promote user traffic on their platforms, but threats of retaliation seem to paint a different picture. Australia is now in a complicated position: support a dying industry through compromise, or risk losing the support of some of the worlds biggest tech leaders? Whatever Australia decides, it will spark a worldwide conversation about the dominance of big tech and its role in news media.
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