Facebook, Australia Takes on Big Tech, Google, Facebook
Do you expect either of those tech giants to exercise their nuclear option and do you expect to see any concessions in this report? Well, i hope they don’t exercise a nuclear option but anything’s possible in this era. I think what we’re seeing now is, you know, sort of the battle of big tech to forestall regulation for stall, mandatory codes on its behavior, and i think this as small as australia is. This is a very important battle on that journey and i think they’re gon na they’re gon na stand their ground pretty hard here. Yeah you’ve said previously that google and facebook are threatening the news ecosystem of australia. Are these proposed laws, though the right way to go about remedying that? Well, there’s. Many different points of view on regulation, and sometimes you don’t, know what’s going to happen until it’s brought into force, and certainly facebook and google have objected to some of the key provisions and probably one of the key ones from facebook front. Is they don’t, like the mandatory nature of the the code where, as a it, goes to arbitration if the two parties can’t agree and facebook also believes that the value of news um, the value of facebook, two news is undervalued in some of the arbitration methods and Google has some issues particularly around having to pay for links to news not just to news content itself, but actually having to pay for links. Look. Those are two big things and the change in the the way we think about the internet.
You know the way the internet has worked for 20 years is essentially all this linking and content has kind of been freely available and then been organized by facebook and google. So this is a big change as we step into a new world where we have to think about. You know how do we continue to fund things like investigative journalism all over the world so that we have vibrant democracies? And that is something i’m i’m concerned about, and i think if facebook and google would pull out of australia, that is a that’s a blow to australians democracy, not not just to the you know the social media ecosystem here, what are the implications for google and facebook? Given that, if australia does take these measures, we have heard reports that the european union could follow suit. Well, indeed, i i’ve heard uh, you know and i’m sure others have heard. You know. Other countries are watching very closely what’s happening here in australia and the eu. If anything has been more aggressive in trying to regulate big tech than has the united states – and so you know, this is a precedent here in australia that the eu is following very closely the and the precedent will be that you know these tech giants have to Pay for content in a way that the rules are not set by them, necessarily they’re set by a third party. In this case, the government and the regulator is that perhaps why they’re making these threats of pulling out of australia and that this is just a negotiating tactic, then how do you reach middle ground between the two? I think it could be seen as a negotiating tactic and i don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, but i have heard that both facebook and google have become probably more amenable now to to coming closer to the government’s position.
Whereas if you go back a year or two, you know they were way far away from each other, now they’re getting closer, and so i think these threats in a way our negotiating tactic. But i think, on the other hand, the government’s, by by in this country, by standing up very toughly to big tech, they force the big tech companies to come closer to them as well. I i think the outcome hopefully will be a negotiated settlement uh sometime in the near future, where we have some hybrid something in between. I know facebook and google. They both proposed uh compromise facebook has said we should have some sort of grace period with a system that they propose and that’s probably reasonable, just to see if that system and that that works properly and then you know, regulation can come later if it’s necessary. It was that threat, particularly from google, to pull out a search function from australia really credible, because, of course, we saw microsoft very swiftly, moving to position itself to fill the void, saying it welcomed these new regulations, yeah and kudos to microsoft, for i think, taking a A more socially responsible point of view here, but at the same time of course, microsoft’s a distant second or third in search and um. You know they they want every advantage, they can get. Look if you remove search from a country – and i don’t think this has ever happened anywhere in the world uh, you know just suddenly removed it.
If you removed google um, you know there would be repercussions right, it’s, not so simple, just to replace it with another tool. People don’t have that tool on their phone people don’t use that tool every day. That tool, you know, being good as it is isn’t as good as google, because it simply doesn’t have the data and the history and the insights that google has built over the years um and certainly if google were to leave and bing becomes a viable substitute for Google search in australia that’s – probably not a good look for google, because then other countries might say hey well. We can pull the plug on google too. If we want to so i in a way, i think it might be a hollow threat, but um. You know it’s good to see microsoft’s ready to step in and they have no shortage of resources to make it work. Well, you are, of course, a former ceo for facebook here in australia or, if you are still in the hot seat now, how would you be handling this? Well, you know the the local um country heads for facebook and google. You know important as they are. They don’t have a lot of influence here, they’re just um, you know they’re just the front people for the decisions that are made in california and if anything, that they’re trying to keep their heads down, probably because they they want to maintain their their own reputations.
Here. In australia and they’re, both australians, the the people who run those companies and i’m sure they’re they’re, concerned themselves about the the ecosystem of information here and some of the negative effects of social media or the internet. But you know they’re not gon na be able to speak publicly about that um. You know when i was at facebook. Certainly, i i couldn’t speak this freely and now that i’m outside of facebook – and i can i can take a more uh kind of a more balanced view to the good and bad that social media and the internet do. I was gon na say when you were setting up facebook in australia, new zealand. Did you foresee that something like this could happen in the regulatory environment? Would you have done anything differently, yeah um, to tell you the truth. I think the way that social media and the internet has grown so quickly and the influences on you know on our minds, our brains, our mental health, our social health. Our democratic health have come so quickly that, even within facebook and google, i uh, and i was inside one of those companies for a while um it’s, really not realized how how devastating this can be in different ways. I think that the the way that the internet has grown so quickly and facebook has grown so quickly has outstripped our ability to understand that both the positive and negative effects of those platforms now we’re just starting to catch up to that i’m.