Top EU official backs Australia in Facebook row

Top EU official backs Australia in Facebook row


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Brussels: The European Commissioner for digital services – who is helping draw up new EU rules for online business – backed Australia in its dispute with web giant Facebook on Monday.

Thierry Breton, Brussels’ top official for the EU internal market, told MEPs that Facebook had been wrong to kick Australian media off its service in a row about paying for news.

Separately, US tech titan Microsoft joined European media in calling for EU members states to follow Australia in setting up a mechanism to ensure that news publishers are paid.

Last week Facebook blanked out the pages of media outlets for Australian users and blocked them from sharing any news content, rather than submit to the proposed legislation.

The European Union has also passed a rule requiring Internet “gatekeepers” like Google or Facebook to negotiate fees for including news stories and links.

But the news industry wants the upcoming Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act to include tougher regulations to strengthen its position against the dominant platforms.

Breton is involved in the drafting of this legislation, and on Monday he told MEPs that Australia had taken the right course.

“I really find it very damaging when a platform takes such steps to protest against the law of a country. This has to be said publicly. Australia must be supported in this fight,” Breton said.

“It is up to the platforms to adapt to the regulators and not the other way round. There are laws, and the platforms must adapt.”

In a statement from a coalition of news media trade associations, Fernando de Yarza, president of News Media Europe, said Australia’s experience with Facebook should serve as a warning.

“There’s a real need for a binding instrument to address inherent imbalances in bargaining power with gatekeepers, which undermine the potential of Europe’s press sector,” he said.



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