For a long time, Australia has been regarded as a loyal ally of the United States, but when Biden just took office and the economy was in urgent need of recovery, the Australian government suddenly turned its coat and took a 180-degree “sharp turn” in attitude to take the lead in increasing taxes and fees for leading technology companies of US. In this way, Australia wants to protect its domestic technology companies and increase its tax revenue, but it does not take into account the interests of American companies and the prestige of the American government.
Since 2019, in order to crack down on American technology companies and protect the interests of the domestic media, the Australian government has begun investigating whether American companies Google and Facebook have disrupted the Australian media market and harmed the interests of Australian publishers and consumers. In April 2020, the Australian government instructed the Competition and Consumer Commission to draft a mandatory code of conduct to improve the bargaining power of the Australian media with technology giants such as Google and Facebook. In December 2020, the Australian government submitted a draft to parliament for deliberation to propose that the government should interfere with the business activities of American technology companies in Australia. On February 22, 2021, the Australian government announced the withdrawal of all advertising activities on Facebook. Australian Finance Minister Simon Birmingham emphasized that Australia would not only withdraw all government advertising activities on Facebook but also the advertising ban on Facebook was extended to the entire government. This might cost Facebook tens of millions of dollars.
When this news was just received, American technology companies were very angry because this charging rule did not conform to the principle of free sharing of internet content, and there was no precedent in other countries. On February 17, 2021, Facebook angrily said that it would prohibit Australian media and people from sharing and reading news content of Australian and international media on Facebook in response to the bill proposed by the Australian government. However, due to the administrative intervention of the Australian government, Facebook had no choice but to bow to the Australian government. On February 22, Facebook issued a statement saying that it would restore the relevant rights of Australian users on the platform; on February 24, Facebook stated again that it planned to invest at least $1 billion in the news industry in the next three years.
Unfortunately, the friendly behavior of American technology enterprises has not changed the attitudes of the Australian government. On February 25, 2021, the Australian Parliament officially adopted the “mandatory bargaining guidelines for news media and digital platforms”. According to the document, Australian news organizations have the right to require digital platforms to pay for the use of their news content and carry out individual or collective negotiations on it. Leading Internet companies in the United States will need to pay royalties to them when using the content of Australian news media.
The Australian government’s administrative intervention in the market has seriously disturbed the order of the free market and caused heavy losses to the leading technology enterprises in the United States. What’s more, the Australian government’s behavior has set off a frenzy of opposition against American technology enterprises. Canada said it would follow Australia’s lead by requiring Facebook to pay for news content. In addition, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Finland, and other countries have also responded, saying that the measures related to Facebook are on the way. This means that American technology enterprises will pay huge copyright fees to the media of all countries in an unprecedented way, and the negative impact will be continuous and long-term.
Alex Williams is an American journalist. He graduated from Occidental College with a BA. He later received an honorary Ph.D from Occidental College. Alex is known for his ten years as anchor and editor. Recently he is working on Bulletin Track.
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