Google and Facebook declare war on the press again

Google and Facebook announced they would rather block users from reading newspapers on their platforms than pay news producers.

"To comply with federal law, viewing and sharing news will not be possible on Facebook , Instagram by Canadian users" was the ad run by Meta in both English and French media in Canada over the past few days.

However, many press agencies in this country said they refused to publish Meta's ads. The Government of Canada and the top 30 advertisers here also announced the cessation of advertising cooperation with Meta. The source of the incident began at the end of June when the social networking company announced that it would block all news and press-related links on its platform - something it did with Australia to fight against the requirement to share advertising profits with the local press agency.

Google, Facebook "unfriend" with Canada

On June 22, Canada's C-18 law was passed. According to estimates by the National Assembly Budget Committee, the law will bring news publishers about $ 329 million per year if Meta , Google pays for using news publications.

Shortly after, Meta announced to block all news links from Canadian users' Facebook and Instagram message boards. A week later, it was Google's turn to announce that it was removing all of the country's news links from its Search, News, Discover service. It also ended its News Showcase program, which had agreements with 150 Canadian news publications. Google recommends showing only news content instead of links, and only businesses that produce news according to journalistic standards are eligible to be paid.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Bloomberg

However, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was tough on his decision. CBC News quoted Mr. Trudeau as saying: "The internet giants would rather cut off Canadians' access to news than pay publishers as it is a fair thing to do. They are using bullying tactics to try to achieve their ends. It won't work in Canada."

Statistics show that between 2008 and 2018, 216 newsrooms in Canada closed. "Tech giants are willing to spend money to change their platforms to block news from Canada, not pay a small part of the billions of dollars in advertising revenue," said member of Congress Pablo Rodriguez .

Google's financial report for the second quarter of 2023 shows that search engine revenue reached $40.69 billion. Kent Walker, Google's president of global affairs, called Canada's new law impossible and would make newsrooms bear the brunt of the consequences.

Previously, Meta also tried to entice news production units to oppose the C-18 law but failed. According to Paul Deegan, CEO of Trade Association News Media Canada, Meta's decision to "unfriend Canada" will negatively affect users and the company's reputation.

Negotiations in Australia

This is not the first time that Google and Facebook have had problems related to the press. In 2021, two "Internet gatekeepers" were required by the Australian government to share profits with news publishers. However, Facebook immediately responded and warned the press will soon suffer the consequences.

On February 17, 2021, Australians woke up to realize that all news links had been removed from the Facebook platform. The fanpages of the largest media companies in this country are also completely empty. Immediately, the traffic to Australian news sites decreased by about 13%.

Facebook's strong action at that time was to oppose the News Media Negotiations bill in Australia. Google also uses its home page in the country to warn local users that the regulation will harm their search experience.

Google, Facebook and a legal battle with news publishers. Photo: Indiat Tmes

However, the Australian government did not give in. The law is still passed. At the time, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Facebook's show of strength only confirmed the concerns of many countries that Big Tech companies were more powerful than the government.

"Facebook's act of unfriending Australia - cutting off essential health information and emergency services - is arrogant and disappointing. They may change the world, but that doesn't mean they run the world," he said.

Days after Facebook showed Australians what the social network would look like without news, a wave of backlash erupted around the world. Facebook was forced to sit at the negotiating table and accept payments to a number of Australian press agencies. Google also has a similar move.

The Battle Without Borders

Observers assess that Facebook and Google's willingness to negotiate in Australia and the recent tough decision of the Canadian government will be an important premise for the press's battle with Internet giants to continue spreading around the world. Vox said that some places such as France and the European Union are also considering following in Australia and Canada's footsteps.

Meanwhile, the FT quoted Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next Digital News Association: "Without reliable news to share, Google and Facebook platforms seem to cut themselves off from what is happening in real life. In the long run, is this the sustainable development model they want to aim for?". He warned that blocking news will affect Meta's advertising business as its platforms increasingly face problems related to fake news, fraud.

And Ruth Callaghan, Director of Innovation at Cannings Purple, predicts that Facebook, Google's battle with the press will take place on a very large front, not the scale of a few countries. This war could reshape the relationship between the press and social media platforms, and government laws should also be transparent and fair to even the "internet gatekeepers".

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