Microsoft wades into Facebook news fight by siding with European publishers

Microsoft is joining forces with European publishers to advocate for an Australian-style scheme that would require tech companies like Google and Facebook to pay for content for news organizations.

On Monday, the company said it would team up with media industry associations such as the European Publishers Council to campaign for such a proposal that is now being debated by lawmakers around the world.

The move comes after last week Facebook (FB) stopped people from finding news on its website in Australia rather than paying publishers for their content, a decision that created a global backlash for the social media business and generated negative headlines.

“We welcome Microsoft’s recognition of the value that our content brings to the core businesses of search engines and social networks,” said Christian Van Thillo, Chairman of the European Publishers Council, in a statement.

The government of Australia is pushing legislation that would encourage some media outlets to bargain with tech giants so that the delivery of the news they generate could be paid for. If they do not reach an agreement, both sides may enter into arbitration.

The European Union and the United States are under rising pressure to take similar steps. The government of Canada has said that in the coming months it plans to enact legislation.

The Australian law was vigorously opposed by Facebook. Last week, in protest of the regulation, it took the unusual step of banning users in the country from finding or posting news on its service. Meanwhile, Google went from threatening to pull its search engine to cutting deals with some of the largest media organizations in the world, including News Corp. of Rupert Murdoch.

A new approach is being taken by Microsoft (MSFT), which owns the Bing search engine. It expressed its support for the law and, if it takes effect, has committed to maintaining its services in Australia, seeing an opportunity to steal market share from rival Google (GOOGL).
“It was an opportunity to combine good business with a good cause,” President Brad Smith said earlier this month in a blog post.

In other nations, including in the European Union, where lawmakers are discussing new legislation that would rein in the influence of big tech firms, the company said it would endorse similar initiatives.
The EU Commissioner for Technology Regulation, Margrethe Vestager, is conducting a legislative consultation with members of the European Parliament this week.

Search engines and social media sites are mandated by new copyright laws in Europe to share revenue with publishers if their content is shown. But European publishers and Microsoft want “additional regulatory measures” to be adopted by leaders to ensure that publishers have clout in negotiations.

“Might not have the economic strength to negotiate fair and balanced agreements with these gatekeeper tech companies, who might otherwise threaten to walk away from negotiations or exit markets entirely,”may not have the economic strength to negotiate fair and balanced agreements with these gatekeeper tech companies, who otherwise could threaten to walk away from negotiations or leave markets entirely.

For the success of our democracies, access to new, wide and deep press coverage is crucial,”Access to fresh, broad and deep press coverage is critical to the success of our democracies,”

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Categories: Tech&Innovation