The US government has requested Australia suspend its plan to make Google and Facebook pay publishers for news content shared by the platforms, labelling the proposed laws “extraordinary” and “premature”.

Its comments were contained in a submission to a Senate committee currently reviewing the proposed media laws.

Australia’s proposed news media bargaining code would allow individual and collective bargaining between news publishers and the tech giants for payment for news content, through a mandatory code of conduct.

If agreements can’t be reached in good faith the code allows for arbitration which would likely force Google and Facebook to pay directly for news content, something the tech giants have so far largely avoided.

The two US companies have railed against the code, with Google suggesting it would threaten the free services it offers while Facebook warned it would pull Australian news content from its platforms if the code goes ahead.

During consultation on the code last year Facebook and Google were able to win concessions to the earlier proposals, most notability the condition that arbiters consider the “two way” value of the relationship between platforms and publishers.

The laws were tabled in parliament in December and immediately sent to a Senate Committee for review.


US Gov weighs in

In a submission to that committee, the US government called for a suspension of the proposed laws.

“Broad reform calling for government intervention in the markets is a significant step. While it may be appropriate to investigate large technology platforms for specific violations of the law, including the antitrust and consumer protection laws, such a sweeping regulatory change seems premature without further study and input,” the submission states.

“Australia should again consider promoting a voluntary code of conduct supported by, as appropriate, targeted regulations developed in an open and transparent process, allowing participation by all relevant stakeholders.”

The submission claims the two US companies are being unfairly targeted with neither yet to violate an existing Australian law or create a market failure.

The code will initially apply only to Facebook and Google – the two companies that dominate the online advertising market – but the legislation allows for it to be applied to other platform companies in the future.

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