Australia passed a law forcing digital giants such as Google and Facebook to pay local media for news content. Other countries also want to adopt similar regulations. More and more countries have also introduced a digital tax. The content blocking policy of internet platforms is also criticized.
The Australian Parliament passed a law on Thursday (February 25) that obliges digital platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay local media for news content. The law introduces rules for negotiations between publishers and platforms, assuming, in the event of disagreement between them, the establishment of government arbitration fixing binding rates.
The purpose of the law is to protect publishers from abusing the dominant position of digital giants and to distribute more fairly profits from online advertising. According to the calculations of the Australian regulator, in 2018, out of every 100 Australian dollars spent on online advertising, 49 went to Google and 24 to Facebook. It has been argued that large internet companies use content produced by local media for free, while earning money by displaying it, because many users only read news content through it. Google and Facebook strongly opposed the new law, arguing that it does not take into account the specificity of the Internet.
On Thursday, February 18, in protest against the law, Facebook blocked access to news articles from Australian media. The company stressed that the new law shows a "fundamental lack of understanding" of its relationship with publishers. After talks with the Australian government, Facebook lifted the content block, and several amendments to the law were adopted, including extending the time for negotiating agreements between platforms and publishers to two months. Both Google and Facebook are already signing contracts with Australian media.
The act, pioneering in the world scale, is perceived as a test of introducing similar regulations in other countries. The Canadian government has already announced work on similar legislation. "I suppose we will soon have 5, 10, 15 countries adopting similar solutions," said Canadian Heritage and Culture Minister Steven Guillebault. European publishers also hope that similar regulations will be introduced throughout the European Union.
Facebook's decision sparked outrage within Australia and beyond, and reignited the debate over the need to regulate digital giants.
"These actions only confirm the concerns expressed by a growing number of countries about the behavior of Big Tech companies that think they are larger than states and that the rules should not apply to them," said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said that support for the introduced regulations was expressed by leaders of Great Britain, Canada, France and India. This step proved that Facebook was "incompatible with democracy," commented David Cicilline, head of the US House of Representatives subcommittee on antitrust regulation.
More and more European countries have also adopted some form of digital tax in the past two years, although no common regulations have yet been established within the EU. Negotiations conducted under the aegis of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to develop a model of a global tax on international technology giants also ended in failure.
The form of digital tax in individual European countries is similar. The tax is levied on revenues from digital activities such as online advertising, the sale of social media user data for advertising purposes, or online brokerage. It is usually charged to companies whose global revenues from this activity exceed EUR 750 million per year. Additionally, digital platforms covered by it must exceed a certain revenue threshold in a specific country. The rate varies from state to state. Due to its design, the levy applies mainly to large American companies, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.
In France, the tax rate is 3%. and it is paid by companies whose revenues in France exceeded 25 million annually (in addition to the global threshold of 750 million). The same threshold for the revenues of taxable internet companies applies in Austria, where 5% of the tax is collected. tax. In Spain and Italy, the tax rate is 3%, it must be paid by companies whose revenues from digital activities in these countries exceeded EUR 3 and 5.5 million, respectively. In Great Britain, a tax of 2 percent. Internet platforms are subject to which global revenues from online operations exceeded £ 500 million, and domestic revenues exceeded £ 25 million. The Polish tax on internet advertising, presented in February, assumes that it will cover companies whose global revenues exceed EUR 750 million, and revenues in Poland exceed EUR 5 million. The rate is to be 5 percent.
The policy of large internet corporations regarding the deletion of accounts and controlling the content posted on them is also controversial around the world.
After supporters of then-US President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on January 6, Twitter blocked, at first temporarily and then permanently, the politician's account, for whom it was the main channel of communication with the public. Similar steps were taken later by, among others Facebook and several other social platforms. The websites justified cutting off Trump from their services by repeatedly disseminating false information about the 2020 presidential election in the US and the risk of further incitement to violence.
These decisions, however, were criticized by many world leaders. "Twitter shut down Donald Trump's account five minutes past twelve. Such a decision should be made on the basis of the law, and not on the basis of an arbitrary decision of some enterprise. It should be a decision made by politicians and parliaments, not Silicon Valley managers" - said the chairman of the Commission European Ursula von der Leyen. Twitter's decision was also described as "problematic" by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who noted that "the right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance".
In turn, the Mexican government has proposed a law to regulate the abuse of censorship by social media. Anyone whose account would be blocked would have a right to appeal against this decision, also heard by the telecoms regulator and the Mexican courts. Digital platforms could be fined up to $ 4.4 million for restricting the right to freedom of expression.
The decision of Google's management boards, which in mid-February, banned the advertising of locksmith services in search engine results in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, was also widely echoed in the world, explaining that most, if not all, ads appearing there come from unreliable or even dishonest locksmiths who exploit people in difficult situations by charging exorbitant fees for the simplest services (PAP)