Big Tech, money and media freedom

The world’s tech information giants remained in the spotlight as debate raged across the world over media freedom and money.

Australia passed the world’s first law aimed at making Google and Facebook pay news publishers for content on their platforms. It followed a major struggle with the tech giants in which Google threatened to pull its search engine from the entire country and Facebook actually did block Australians from viewing or sharing news. The law passed with amendments after tough negotiations and mixed consequences from the Facebook ban.

Facebook and Google’s fight in Australia were not their first over payment for news and Australia is far from their largest market but the proposed law was seen as a potential global test case for how governments regulate big tech firms. Both Facebook and Google resisted the Australian plan because negotiating business deals would be subject to national rules and they would have less control over how much they would have to pay – but they took different approaches in their fight.

And across the Pacific in the USA there were serious questions about the power of digital media giants and free speech after Twitter and Facebook shut down U.S. President Donald Trump’s accounts. They shut down Trump’s accounts after he encouraged protests that turned violent at the Capitol building in his last days in office.

Honorary AEJ member and veteran American journalist and columnist Llewellyn King examined issues of media freedom and free speech in the wake of actions by the tech giants. What if these companies get politically activated in the future, King asks, while acknowledging that ex-President Trump deserved censure and the digital companies’ actions may not be wrong at a time of crisis.

Quoting journalist and essayist H.L. Mencken in 1940 – “freedom of the press is limited to those who own one” – King said the exercise of censor authority should alarm all free-speech advocates and is power that exceeds anything ever seen in media.

Big tech to pay for news
Google threatens to pull search engine
Facebook blocks news
Google keeps opposing law
Facebook matches Google investment
Who won?
Global test case
What’s it all about
Google does deals
Different approaches
Media freedom and big tech