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Australia should force Meta to pay for news, News Corp executive says

Post Time:2024-06-06 Source:Reuters Author: Views:

CANBERRA, June 5 (Reuters) - Australia should force Meta Platforms (META.O) to pay news companies for content that appears on Facebook and impose broader regulation on social media firms, a senior News Corp (NWSA.O) executive said.

Meta said in March it would stop paying Australian news publishers for content. The government is now considering whether to apply a 2021 law that would force it to do so.

"Meta must be designated under the Media Bargaining Code and challenged to negotiate in good faith," News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said in a speech in Canberra, using the jargon of the 2021 legislation.

"We had a deal - and they walked away. I believe they have an obligation to renew the agreements, and honour our laws," he said.

"We can't let ourselves be bullied."

Asked for comment, Meta referred Reuters to a company blog post that said interest in news was declining on its platforms and cast those platforms as free distribution channels that media companies could use to expand their audiences.

Publishers argue that Facebook and other internet giants profit unfairly from advertising revenue when links to news articles appear on their platforms.

Meta struck payment deals with Australian media firms in 2021, most of which lapse this year.

If the government tries to enforce the 2021 law, Meta could block users from reposting news articles as it did briefly in Australia in 2021 and has done since 2023 in Canada, which has similar laws and where academics have noted an increased spread of misinformation as a result.

Meta has been reducing its promotion of news and political content to drive traffic and has said it will discontinue a tab on Facebook promoting news in Australia.

In his speech, Miller also decried the impact of social media on mental health and its amplification of scams and social ills such as misogyny.

He proposed a regulatory framework for tech firms such as Meta, Tik Tok and X, formerly known as Twitter, that he said would protect Australians.

This would include making companies liable for all content on their platforms, competition laws for digital advertising, better handling of consumer complaints and donations to mental health programmes.

Companies that do not abide by these rules should be barred from the Australian market, he said.

A spokesperson for Meta said: "The suggestion that Meta doesn't respect Australian laws or community standards is preposterous."

The company has restricted access to content in line with Australian laws, worked with law enforcement to prevent real world harm and trained thousands of young Australians in online safety, they said.