Friday, February 12, 2021

U-S Urged To Make FB, Google Pay For News

Microsoft Corp. said the U.S. should copy Australia’s controversial proposal that tech companies pay newspapers for content—putting it at odds with Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc.

The Wall Street Journal reports it isn’t the first time Microsoft has stepped into feuds involving rivals—particularly in areas where they have an edge. Its Bing search engine lags behind Google in market share. Microsoft has urged governments to better regulate facial-recognition technology and last year sided with a videogame developer against Apple Inc. in a dispute about app-store fees.

The Australian proposal, if enacted into law—it is now before a parliamentary committee—could prompt other countries to follow suit in a global transformation of the relationship between tech companies and traditional media.

Some countries, particularly in Europe, have tried to force tech companies to pay publishers, often with little success. Australia’s effort gained momentum last year, when the pandemic-driven downturn further strained the finances of media companies.

“The United States should not object to a creative Australian proposal that strengthens democracy by requiring tech companies to support a free press,” Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a blog post published Thursday. “It should copy it instead.”

The Australian proposal would effectively require publishers and tech companies to negotiate, and submit to binding arbitration if they can’t reach a deal. It would also require tech companies to notify publishers of algorithm changes that could affect search rankings.

The Trump administration opposed the proposal, objecting to its applying first to two U.S. companies and to some specifics of the arbitration process, which it said would favor the news companies. Microsoft’s Mr. Smith said the Biden administration should reconsider.

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