Facebook Rejects Talks With Australia Publisher

Australia’s competition watchdog is looking into a claim that Facebook refused a publisher’s request to negotiate a licensing deal, according to The New York Post, setting the stage for the first test of the world’s toughest online content law.

The Conversation, which publishes current affairs commentary by academics, said it asked Facebook to begin talks as required under new Australian legislation that requires the social media firm and Alphabet’s Google to negotiate content-supply deals with media outlets.

Facebook declined without giving a reason, The Conversation said, even though the publisher was among the first in Australia to secure a similar deal with Google in the lead-up to the law in 2020.

The knockback could present the first test of a controversial mechanism unique to Australia’s effort to claw back advertising dollars from Google and Facebook: If they refuse to negotiate license fees with publishers, a government-appointed arbitrator may step in.

In a statement responding to Reuters’ questions, Facebook’s head of news partnerships for Australia, Andrew Hunter, said the company was “focused on concluding commercial deals with a range of Australian publishers.”

Hunter did not answer specific questions concerning The Conversation, but said Facebook was planning a separate initiative “to support regional, rural and digital Australian newsrooms and public-interest journalism in the coming months,” without giving details.

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