BREAKING GOOD NEWS — NOT FOR FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE

Unlike Australia’s backwards flushing toilets, what goes around comes around. The country is moving forward with an unprecedented effort to stop Big Tech from dumping on local news media. The New York Times (4-21-20) reports the government down-under is mandating Facebook and Google to pay media outlets for the news stories displayed on their respective pages and search results.

Finally, the publishers and journalists responsible for all of the legit news coverage and content featured by these multi-billion-dollar behemoths will get the credit and appropriate compensation they richly deserve.

Not surprisingly the Australian government was forced to issue the binding regulations after talks with Facebook and Google for a voluntary system stalled. Representatives of the tech giants claimed they had been working hard to develop the voluntary code and were “disappointed” by the government’s interference.

The hope is some of the local newspapers operating on shoe-string budgets may be rescued by receiving a fair percentage of the billions of dollars Google and Facebook earn in ad revenue.

Governments around the world are struggling with this issue, The Times article reports. The EU adopted new online copyright guidelines last year. And separately, France ordered Google to negotiate with publishers to pay for news shown in search results. Of course Google attempted to work around efforts to compensate publishers.

In the United States, where most local newspapers are on life-support, even worse off now faced with losing even more ad revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government’s response to this injustice is passive at best. Congress gave news publishers a temporary antitrust exemption in order to negotiate collectively with the tech giants.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to not like and to flat out distrust the almighty Facebook and Google. But the fact that they must be forced to drop a dime in the tin cups of the poor newspapers they’ve singlehandedly handicapped may be the most justifiable.

Intelligent, conscientious readers of news should care about saving local newspapers, which are the original sources of content. While The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and USA Today provide most of the international and national we read, the locals keep us grounded and also serve as training sites for aspiring new journalists.

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