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Following Australia’s news publication debacle, Facebook has recently rejected an Australian publisher’s request to negotiate a licensing deal. 

The News Media Bargaining Code has imposed obligations on social media platforms and Australian news media to negotiate content-supply deals in order to balance bargaining powers between the parties. Ever since the Codes proposal, digital platforms have been on the backfoot arguing that this style of legislation may curb the online dissemination of news and media. Regardless of their pleas, this Code was passed and in fear of severe monetary implications, companies such as Google began entering into agreements with certain news media companies. Although, Facebook was not as docile as others and initially banned traditional news media outlets on its site. This content ban covered governmental agencies, health care providers, scientific outlets, and parody news. Now, Facebook has again put its foot down by being the first social media platform to decline a publication negotiation deal.

According to the legislation, when preliminary negotiations fail, a government-appointed arbitrator may step in to reach an agreement. Facebook’s Australian head of news partnerships, Andrew Hunter, claimed that Facebook has other commercial deals prepared and was planning a separate initiative to “support regional, rural and digital Australian newsrooms and public-interest journalism in the coming months”.

Under the News Media Bargaining Code, the Australian government may also set the fees if negotiations fail. This means that Facebook should be incentivised to enter into negotiations or risk being dealt an unfavourable deal. What is also interesting is that Google has already entered into a partnership with the news media company in question, so it makes little sense for Facebook not to. Moreover, many smaller news publications have argued that the legislation has created a ‘two-tier industry’ where smaller companies are missing out on partnerships. Publishers such as the Australian Property Journal and The Conversation have even reached out to Facebook but received no response, leaving the industry confused as to Facebook’s operation.

It will be interesting to see what Facebook is planning and whether this new legislation may present any negative effects on domestic news publication.

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