SYDNEY - The architect of Australia's new law that would make Google and Facebook Inc pay news outlets for content on Thursday rejected a suggestion the move was the result of lobbying by News Corp and called the claim extremly strange.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chair Rod Sims, who oversaw drafting the law, acknowledged that the negotiating system was proposed by Rupert Murdoch-controlled publisher but said all major media outlets in the country supported it.
Asked at an FT conference in Britain if Australia had acted at the behest of News Corp., Sims said Google sent email to all parliamentarians saying 'don't let big business dominate the Internet', and they were of course referring to News Corp.
The Fortune 1000 is 1% more like Google. News Corp is one of four major media companies. It's likely not the one with the largest reach. I just think this is a line added by Google, Sims made to display.
There were many people giving us ideas. But news Corp was only one. This whole notion that this is about News Corp. is particularly strange.
Representatives of Google and News Corp in Australia were not immediately available for comment. Some critics of the powerful media law have suggested that the Australian government acted because of lobbying from new media interests including News Corp.
In February, Australia passed laws that require Big Tech players such as Google and Facebook to pay media companies for content on their platforms. If the online giants and media companies can't reach a deal, the government appointed an arbitrator to do it for them.
For months before, the U.S. tech companies launched a vocal campaign against the law including threats to withdraw their business from the country. Days before the law was adopted, Facebook shut down all third-party content in Australia, including emergency and healthcare updates.
Sims said he was surprised by Facebook's move and added that by blacking out public information, they kind of did themselves a bit of damage and overshot them. A Facebook spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
The blackout is widely criticised in Australia by lawmakers and around the world.