Google, Facebook win media code concessions over algorithmic changes

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Google, Facebook win media code concessions over algorithmic changes

To make code "more workable".

The federal government is poised to water down the requirement that digital platforms give media companies 14 days’ notice of major algorithm changes under its proposed media code.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday said the government would introduce “technical amendments” to the Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill later this week to make it more “workable”.

The landmark code – which is likely to be legislated before the end of next week – is scheduled for debated in parliament on Wednesday after clearing the senate economics legislation committee.

It would force digital platforms Google and Facebook to negotiate payments with news organisations, with a binding “final offer” arbitration process used if no agreement can be reached.

Parties are also encouraged to negotiate outside of the code, as has been seen this week with a number of news organisations now in eleventh-hour talks with Google over payment.

Frydenberg said amendments would “streamline the requirements for digital platforms to give advanced notice of algorithm changes”, though did not elaborate.

The government has already offered the digital platforms concessions around the need to provide advanced notification, having narrowed the requirement to only significant algorithm changes.

According to the bill’s explanatory memorandum, digital platforms must give media companies 14 days' notice of algorithm changes “likely to have a significant effect on the referral traffic to ... new content”.

It follows pushback from Google, which said in a blog post last month that the “special treatment” would “delay important updates for our users” and disadvantage every other website.

The government will also “clarify the arbitration criteria so that it considers the reasonable costs of both [parties]” and remove any doubt that remuneration takes the form of lump-sum payments.

Other changes include clarifying the role of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and adjusting the effect of anti-avoidance provisions.

Frydenberg said that changes will “improve the workability of the code while retaining its overall effect”.

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