Facebook’s dramatic move to block Australian news sharing escalated a broader battle against global regulation. That gambit looks likely to backfire.
World leaders were already watching Australian legislation expected to pass next week that will force tech titans Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to pay publishers for news content. But this week’s abrupt news blackout forced the issue onto the agenda of governments whose regulators are already ramping up scrutiny of the growing influence of Facebook and its ilk in spheres from media to artificial intelligence.
“There is a lot of world interest in what Australia is doing,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday, adding that he discussed Facebook with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Canadian leader Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and the U.K.’s Boris Johnson. “They’re already going down this path.”
The issue of how to fairly compensate news providers is a thorny challenge given an online community accustomed to free content. Still, the push to redress the monopoly-like power of these platforms appears to be gaining momentum.
“The dominance of a handful of gatekeepers online has wreaked havoc on competition, suppressed innovation, and weakened entrepreneurship,” US Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island said in a statement Friday. He pledged to undertake legislative reforms that “restore competition online.”
“Ultimately, we’ve got to as a government, in our country, we got to find a way of dealing with what is now a very very well established, a very important part of people's lives, which is social media and social media companies,” Foreign Office Minister of State James Cleverly told the BBC.
“We need to find ways of making sure that the commercial relationships with these big tech giants work.”