Mark Zuckerberg gives a keynote address the F8 developer conference.(Courtesy: Facebook)
Mark Zuckerberg gives a keynote address the F8 developer conference.(Courtesy: Facebook)

Facebook and Google may have to reveal algorithm changes to Australian media firms soon

In a new move, Facebook and Google will be forced to share advertising revenue with Australian media companies and inform them in advance about algorithm changes that would affect content rankings, favour original source news content in search page results, and share data with them.

The move come in the wake of an inquiry in December by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to develop a code between media companies and digital platforms including Google and Facebook. Following the findings, the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg has asked the competition watchdog to develop a mandatory code of conduct for the digital platforms in view of a steep decline in advertising revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

To be finalised in November this year, the ACCC will implement the code mandatorily in the country. It will propose a voluntary adherence to the code but spell out penalties and binding dispute resolution mechanisms for negotiations between the digital platforms and news businesses. Besides news content, the code will also cover other social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.

The government informed the Australian media that the draft code will be finalised by the end of July and the final text will be made soon after that. Defending the government move, Frydenberg said that it was a fair play for both media companies that created the content and the aggregators who deliver it on their platforms. “This will help to create a level playing field,” he said.

The communications minister, Paul Fletcher, said the code will enable to create a fair news media ecosystem. “Digital platforms have fundamentally changed the way that media content is produced, distributed and consumed… Digital platforms need to do more to improve the transparency of their operations for news media providers as they have a significant impact on the capacity of news media organisations to build and maintain an audience and derive resources from the media content they produce.”

The sudden disappearance of advertisement revenue for the print media has forced many newspapers to shut down during the pandemic already, while the online editions are struggling to make revenue out of aggregators or online advertisement. Several media companies in Australia have asked staff to take a pay cut or stand down in view of the onslaught on the print media.

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