Britain should follow Australia and make Facebook pay for news, Matt Hancock says

BRITAIN should follow Australia and insist Facebook pays media companies for their news content, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has indicated.

The government is now reportedly exploring legislation to force the social media giant to cough up.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is looking "very closely" at how it can make Facebook compensate media outlets, Mr Hancock revealed.

Last week, MPs accused Mark Zuckerberg's company of a "staggering lack of respect" for democracy after it blocked news feeds on its platform in Australia.

Facebook's bombshell news blackout followed a proposed law that would force internet firms to pay news organisations in Australia.

Canada is set to join forces with Australia in demanding that “schoolyard bully” Facebook pays for news stories, as pressure grows on the government here to take a tougher stance against tech titans.


Speaking yesterday, Mr Hancock told Times Radio: "I have very strong views on this.

"All I can say is that I’m a great admirer of Australia and Canada.

"I think this is a very important matter and I’ve got no doubt the culture secretary will be looking at it very closely.”

A senior government source told The Times the government is preparing a code to monitor the behaviour of social media behemoths like Facebook.

Ministers would then consider whether to introduce laws “for pro-competition reforms” that cover "Big Tech", it's reported.

The source said. “We are certainly not ruling out Australian-style legislation to fix the imbalance in the relationship between big tech companies and news organisations.

"However, clearly, there is a process that needs to be gone through and that is why we are consulting.”

Facebook was last week accused of"unfriending" Australia by its Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The ban means people in Australia can't access news from their country's publishers and broadcasters or international news content on Facebook.

Traditional media companies insist they have seen billions of pounds in advertising to firms lost to firms like Facebook.

Mr Dowden is due to meet Facebook bosses this week following the firm's Australia news ban.

He is said to see their decision to remove news content from its Australia platform as "a worrying development".

I think this is a very important matter and I’ve got no doubt the culture secretary will be looking at it very closely

Furious MPs rounded on Facebook, with Julian Knight, Conservative chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport committee, accusing it of having “run a bulldozer” over democratic processes.

He said: “This is Facebook saying to the world ‘If you do wish to limit our powers . . . we can remove what is for many people a utility’.”

Last week, News Corp announced a global agreement with tech giant Google that will see them pay for stories.

The ground-breaking deal by the ultimate owner of The Sun and The Times will see the media company contribute to Google News Showcase, an update to its news search platform.

Facebook claimed Australia's proposed law would try “to penalise Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for”.

It said the proposed legislation "fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers".

The social media firm insisted its profits from news content were “minimal”.


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