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Maltese MEP Pressures Google And Facebook To Pay For News: ‘It’s Only Fair’

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Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba, who is involved in EU efforts to regulate the digital space, has said Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook should pay news outlets for featuring their content on their platforms.

“With their dominant market position in search, social media and advertising, large digital platforms create power imbalances and benefit significantly from news content,” Agius Saliba told the Financial Times. “I think it is only fair that they pay back a fair amount.”

His proposals include having an option of binding arbitration for licensing agreements and an obligation for tech companies to inform publishers about changes to how they rank news stories on their sites.

He later told BBC Radio 1 that it’s unfair for Big Tech companies to keep on making millions without giving anything back to news outlets, and said compensation is crucial in combatting fake news.

Andrus Ansip, an Estonian MEP and former EU Commissioner for the Digital Single Market who helped craft the controversial copyright directive is of the same opinion.

“The idea of the copyright directive was to create a stronger negotiating position for news publishers,” he said. “We now know that the same process is going on in Australia. I don’t want to reopen the copyright directive but we will have to [look at the Digital Services Act] if we need to bring more clarity.” 

Agius Saliba spearheaded a report on the Digital Services Act, which the European Parliament approved last October.

Along with the Digital Markets Act, this report represents the EU’s attempt to regulate Big Tech, with proposals such as a revamp of the bloc’s antitrust rules, hefty fines for social media companies who don’t stop hate speech and illegal products from circulating widely on their digital networks, and opt-in options for political ads and the use of behavioural data for advertising purposes.

Although these proposals don’t state Big Tech companies should pay for news content on their platforms, Agius Saliba and other MEPs have been closely following developments in Australia, which is set to introduce such a bill into Parliament. 

Facebook and Google have strongly opposed these moves, with Facebook threatening to stop Australian users from sharing news stories on its platform and Google warning its search results could “dramatically worsen” if the law passes.

Google told Financial Times that they already help publishers by sending valuable traffic to their sites and are willing to pay to further support journalism. Facebook declined to comment.

What do you make of this proposal?

ewropej official logoThis article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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Tim is interested in the rapid evolution of human society brought about by technological advances. He’s passionate about justice, human rights and cutting-edge political debates. You can follow him on Twitter at @timdiacono or reach out to him at [email protected]

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