Blocks Facebook links

Dispute over media lawLink control: Australia makes Facebook one suggestion

Australia wants to introduce a link tax: Facebook and Co should pay for media content to which they link. As a result, Facebook simply blocked all content, including that of the government. She is now making a compromise proposal.

In Australia, a proposal is being discussed that a license fee is payable just for linking other websites.

As a protest against the media law and the planned link tax, Facebook not only threw the websites of Australian media out of the app. Reports and websites from government authorities and non-profit organizations were also blocked.

This meant that information on the corona pandemic and severe weather warnings were no longer available on Facebook. And Google, in turn, threatened to shut down the search engine for Australia if the law was implemented as planned.

But then there was a conversation between Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and Australia's finance minister Josh Frydenberg. The announced that he wanted to improve. It was "never intended" that platforms like Facebook and Google would have to pay for each individual link or the display of small text excerpts in the form of snippets.

Instead, the finance minister made a compromise proposal: Facebook, Google and Co should pay, but a flat fee.

This means that the Australian government is sticking to its stated goal of obliging the tech companies to share their income with the media companies. But the proportion is lower than initially assumed. The Australian government has already agreed on a fee with Google.

"Australia's government brings a compromise into play: a flat fee."
Martina Schulte, Deutschlandfunk Nova network reporter

So is the Australian government going to its knees to tech companies? "I would not see that as a buckling," says Deutschlandfunk-Nova reporter Martina Schulte. "More like a compromise proposal."

The government has thus given the opportunity for politicians, network groups and media companies to find an amicable solution after all. The media companies are also very interested in this, says Martina. They want their messages to appear on Facebook and Google.

"The media companies are also not interested in a Facebook or Google without news. They cannot do without Google or Facebook."
Martina Schulte, Deutschlandfunk Nova reporter

Because after the lock on Facebook, only a few media could score and reach their users directly - without going through Facebook. For example, the app of the public broadcaster ABC News climbed from position 400 into the top 3 of the most loaded iPhone applications. The app briefly beat Instagram and Whatsapp, both of which belong to Facebook.

Dramatic slump in access numbers

But ABC News remained an exception. For most of the media, the lock resulted in an enormous loss of access. According to the journalistic online specialist portal Niemanlab, the day after the block, the traffic on Facebook to Australian news sites collapsed 93 percent.

"For a lot of Australian media outlets, the lock on Facebook means a dramatic drop in traffic."
Martina Schulte, Deutschlandfunk Nova reporter

In the European Union you watch how things go on and whether Australia finds a good compromise with the tech companies. Because here, too, the aim is to strengthen the position of publishers and media houses vis-à-vis the tech giants.

Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner for Digital and Vice President of the Commission, is also relying on cooperation with the USA, which also wants to find regulation, to find a solution.