Rothermere: Surrender to Facebook is bad for news
AUSTRALIA has been accused of putting democracy at risk with its ‘surrender’ to Facebook, by watering down laws forcing the social media giant to pay for news.
Lord Rothermere, chairman of Metro’s parent company DMGT, said tech firms such as Facebook and Google were being granted worrying powers over what information is made available online.
He was speaking as Australian senators agreed to look again at measures making social media platforms pay publishers for news content, following discussions with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg.
Lord Rothermere cautioned against allowing the firms to seal ‘secret deals with the publishers they favour’ at the expense of ‘fair and transparent treatment for all’.
His intervention came after Facebook had banned users in Australia from sharing news stories, despite growing alarm over pandemic misinformation.
News outlets could no longer post stories or had their pages blocked, while users were barred from sharing articles.
The move led to the company being warned it faced being treated like big oil and tobacco companies.
Conservative MP Julian Knight, who chairs the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, accused it of ‘bully boy action’.
Google also threatened to remove its search functions but backed down after signing deals with media companies, such as Rupert Murdoch’s
News Corp. Facebook agreed to restore news but could now do so with enhanced bargaining powers. In a letter to the Financial Times yesterday, Lord Rothermere raised concerns over ‘a bad day for democracy’.
He said: ‘Politicians should be very worried about events in Australia. ‘Reporting news costs money; but for years Facebook and Google have plundered news content without paying for it, while at the same time extracting ever greater profits from advertising markets they dominate. ‘News publishers and governments have worked together to fight for fair treatment.
‘As long as the platforms persuade enough desperate news publishers to sign take-it-or-leaveit deals, there will now be no fair, independent arbitration.’
DMGT chairman says tech firms ‘plunder’ news.
A CIA report implicating Saudi leader crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is set to be released by the US.
Officials said president Joe Biden has read the file, which Donald Trump refused to release.
Mr Biden is to meet the crown prince soon and is said to want to ‘recalibrate’ ties which had become closer under Mr Trump.
Mr Khashoggi was killed in 2018 after being lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. He was then reportedly dismembered. His body has never been found.
The crown prince denied involvement and blamed rogue agents meant to return him to the kingdom. Five got deaths sentences, later commuted.
The report is said not to contain a ‘smoking gun’, but concludes the operation needed the prince’s approval.