Europe reportedly considering making internet giants pay for news

The precedent set by Australia in forcing the likes of Facebook and Google to pay the publishers of news that appears on their sites could be copied by the EU.

The FT chatted to some Eurocrats who revealed that they could lob some laws similar to those proposed in Australia into the latest round of digital tinkering by the bloc. Specifically we’re talking about the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which both place heavy emphasis on protecting EU citizens from digital horridness.

Of course, it’s standard procedure for politicians to increase their power and restrict the freedom of their constituents in the name of safety. So it’s safe to assume these two bits of mega-legislation will include both corporates shake-downs and greater restrictions on digital activity, including censorship. It would therefore be totally unsurprising if they threw some of this Aussie mucking about in there.

The underlying issue is a legitimate one – that internet giants get loads of traffic, and thus revenue, from sharing news items on their platforms. The owners of this news argue they should be getting a piece of that action, but the internet giants counter that they’re already well compensated via the traffic they get from click-throughs.

Media owners have apparently attempted to negotiate with the platforms but go nowhere, which is why lawmakers are feeling compelled to step in. The real problem is an imbalance in the relationship, with media needing the platforms more than the inverse. This was illustrated in Australia by Facebook threatening to call everyone’s bluff and simply removing the ability to share news.

Google has struck a similarly defiant tone, but the two of them, might change their tune if the EU decides to join the fun. Then we’ll find out how important the ability to distribute news really is to them as they face the prospect of being cut off from hundreds of millions of relatively affluent consumers.

The European telecoms industry is also keen for the EU to regulate internet giants, so it seems reasonable to expect some move in that direction. The delicate balancing act will be to introduce measures that are just palatable enough to be accepted. After all, the consequences for flouting European electronics regulations seem to be negligible.

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