In its response to the Digital Platforms Inquiry’s final report, the Australian government recommended a code to address the relationship between digital platforms and publishers in the distribution of news online. While we have concerns with the underlying analysis for the recommendation, we proposed a version of the code that would address the policy concerns about the role algorithms play in the distribution of digital news. This voluntary framework for digital news distribution would preserve the many benefits that technology delivers to Australians. This framework seeks to set standards that ensure all digital news distributors are held accountable for their commitments to publishers and consumers.
While some aspects of these standards will apply differently to search engines, social media, messaging and news aggregator platforms, they should apply consistent principles that protect the interests of all news publishers, regardless of their size. To be effective, they must also provide transparency and accountability to the Australian public about how people consume and share news online, outline a complaint-handling procedure, and define a process for evaluating the standards in future.
Adopting a framework that is underpinned by these principles will help foster trust among Australians that news content is treated fairly, and avoid distorting the industry by entrenching the market power of one news organisation over another. This approach delivers more benefits to consumers that rely on access to a diverse range of quality news sources than a code that appoints a regulator to negotiate commercial deals on behalf of media companies.
In the near future, we will share our proposed ‘Digital News Distributor’ framework and ask for feedback from both the digital industry and the media industry on our recommendations. We support an open and transparent dialogue that takes into account diverse industry perspectives and ensures all publishers and the wider industry have the opportunity to view and comment on these principles.
We remain deeply committed to working with Australian publishers and the government on this framework, and will continue to develop products and invest in publisher partnerships and programs independent of the outcomes of this framework.
Mia Garlick is Facebook’s director of policy, Australia & New Zealand.