Australia’s Bad Bargain With Platforms

Casey Newton, writing earlier this week about Australia’s forthcoming law requiring platforms to pay publishers when the former links to the latter:

I appreciate that more countries are now taking an interest in how to shore up their ailing media companies. But it seems to me that any legislation ought to begin with the aim of creating sustainable media jobs, rather than simply parceling out payments to the country’s biggest publishers. For starters, Australia could invest directly in nonprofit public media, which has consistently been shown to have significant civic benefits.

Or it could head down its current path, which is aimed at reducing the power of the tech giants, but — like so much regulation now under consideration around the world — will likely only entrench them further. For journalism to become more sustainable in the long run, it can’t rely on handouts from the biggest tech companies of the moment to the biggest publishers of the moment.

And that’s why I half hope that Google and Facebook call Australia’s bluff, and pull their news links from the platforms. I’ve never been in love with the idea of Google or Facebook being a primary news destination for most people, anyway. And while a retreat from that world would have some real costs in the short term, any withdrawal would also likely be temporary.

Facebook did; Google did not, instead agreeing to give News Corp “significant payments”. The results of this policy do not appear to encourage quality journalism. Instead, Google has helped further entrench Rupert Murdoch’s longtime dominance of Australian media, while Facebook users will only be able to link to websites not informational enough to be considered news.