Canada, Australia Agree on Efforts to Regulate Digital Giants Like Facebook

February 24, 2021 Updated: February 25, 2021

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has agreed with his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison to continue “coordinating efforts” to ensure digital giants will pay publishers for content shared on their platforms.

According to an official statement, the two prime ministers spoke Monday on a range of topics, including the need to regulate social media companies.

On Monday, Facebook reversed its decision to ban its news service in Australia—which had effectively preventing news outlets from posting content on the social media site, coming after the News Media Bargaining Code passed both houses of parliament.

The Bargaining Code is a bill that creates a framework for news companies to negotiate a fair remuneration for their content that is shared on digital platforms, particularly on Facebook and Google.

Facebook VP Campbell Brown said in a statement that his company had struck a deal with the Australian government and will restore its news service in the coming days.

“After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers,” Campbell said. “Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation.”

Google had also threatened to shut down service in Australia because of the proposed law, but has also backed down. The company has been working with Australia’s big and small media companies in content-licensing deals through its News Showcase.

Ottawa has signaled its intention to follow in Australia’s footsteps as Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has been pushing for legislation that would make tech giants pay Canadian media companies for content posted on their platforms.

In November 2020, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-10, which would amend Canada’s Broadcasting Act to tax digital giants and protect traditional broadcasters.

The legislation would also monitor online hate speech, which has raised concerns about possible encroachment on Canadian’s freedom of speech.

Conversative MP Cheryl Gallant said in a House of Commons debate on Dec. 11, 2020, that the new taxes and regulations will “cut Canadians off from a growing, rich, diverse array of new streaming services from across the world.”

Cheryl said the Broadcasting Act exists because the government had to allocate airwave frequencies for television and radio broadcasters. However, when the internet was introduced, its revolutionary technology no longer required government regulation as it did for traditional broadcasters.

“The only reason the government is doing this is to stretch the justification of regulating public airwaves into a justification for regulating private viewing,” Cheryl said.

“This is regulating expression. It is a limit on speech.”