Monday, May 9, 2022

Facebook vs. Australia: The alternatives to agreement determine the terms of agreement

 The Australian govt. passed a law requiring Facebook and Google to start paying for news content that appeared on their sites. However, the law did not specify any criteria for identifying pages that were in violation of the law.  

This uncertainty creates a tradeoff when trying to design rules to comply with the law:    

  • An "overly broad" take down means that Facebook is less likely to violate  the law,  BUT
  • It also means that Facebook is likely to take down pages that shouldn't be taken down.  

According to WSJ

The documents show that Facebook deliberately created an overly broad process for deciding what was news and taking down supposedly news pages that swept up a lot of things that weren't news. And the document showed that it knew this. This was a choice. ...
The other thing Facebook didn't have ready was a process so that anyone who thought their page had been wrongly taken down could appeal to Facebook and ask to be reinstated. The company says it was still working on the appeals process when the takedown began. The massive takedown of Facebook pages may have wreaked havoc for the public, but for Facebook, it got the company back at the negotiating table with Australian lawmakers. ...
Within days, Australian lawmakers watered down the bill and added in language that said if Google and Facebook struck enough deals with the news publishers on their own, they could avoid that dreaded government run negotiation process: the so-called final offer arbitration. 

The reporter suggests that this was all part of a cleverly thought out plan to pressure Australia to watering down the law, but the overly broad take down could also be seen as Facebook's honest effort to comply with the law.  

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