After blocking links to all news content in Australia, Facebook has reportedly “friended” the country again by coming back to the negotiating table, at least according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. That doesn’t mean that Mark Zuckerberg has dropped his objections to Austrailia’s pending legislation that would force the social media giant to pay for links to Australian news content, however. Neither side seems to be backing down at this point.
Australia may not be in this battle alone, though.
We’re learning this weekend that Canada is drafting a similar measure and basically daring Facebook to impose a blackout on them as well. (NY Post)
Canada is poised to take on Facebook, following the example set by Australia, which began a war with the tech giant when the country’s publishers backed proposed legislation demanding payment for their content.
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault condemned Facebook’s actions as “highly irresponsible” last week when the social media giant removed all Australian news content from its sites in retaliation.
Guilbeault warned that Canada would be next in making sure Facebook paid for news content from Canadian publishers. Guilbeault is charged with drafting legislation in the next few months that would require Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay up.
This whole “everyone hates Facebook” theme is turning into a trend. According to Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, he was recently in talks with representatives from Finland, France and Germany to discuss what to do about Facebook. He further indicated that the total number of nations considering joining such an alliance could quickly reach 15.
This is pretty much what I was talking about when I suggested that Facebook might come to regret starting this staredown with Australia. The Aussies probably only represent a fairly small percentage of Facebook’s total audience and the same can be said for Canada. But if they start losing a significant number of European countries as well, Mark Zuckerberg may have to go back to the drawing board and rethink his strategy. At some point, the cart is going to become too heavy for the donkey to pull it.
It’s not just fees for news content, either. More countries, including the United States, are discussing new regulatory action against the big social media companies and even the possibility of modifying antitrust laws. Facebook has managed to maintain some level of profitability, but its entire business model could evaporate if too many nations start cracking the whip in that fashion.
Before anyone comes to the table with Zuckerberg (aside from Australia, anyway), we should know exactly what we expect from Facebook in terms of “better behavior.” I really don’t understand the desire to charge them for links to news sites showing up on users’ pages. If people are republishing entire articles instead of excerpts and stealing protected images, then they need to have those posts taken down. But if it’s really just links and summaries, that sort of activity drives more traffic to the news sites so Facebook is basically doing marketing work for those sites for free.
It would be more beneficial if we could get Facebook, Twitter and all the rest to stop censoring conservative speech, but that would be pretty hard to build into legislation. And I somehow doubt that Congress would be interested in such a plan anyway, at least as long as the Democrats are in charge.
Once we see how many more countries are seriously willing to enter into an anti-Facebook alliance with Canada and Australia we’ll have a better idea of whether or not Mark Zuckerberg truly feels compelled to come to the table. But I still don’t have an inkling of what he might offer to stave off the impasse.