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How did tech giants Facebook and Google react when Australia in February 2021 passed a law aimed at making Facebook and Google pay for news content on digital platforms?

Although temporal, Facebook reacted by blocking all news content to Australians while Google threatened to ban Search in the country.

With reactions like these, what is going to be the tech giants move should Competition Commission South Africa takes the same route?

Recently, Competition Commission South Africa is critically looking into distribution of media content via digital platforms. According to the commission, a Terms of Reference has been drafted for market inquiry into the distribution of media content on digital platforms.

The draft may come with some level of competition restrictions on the news media sector in the country and may possibly extend to tech giants such as Facebook and Google. This may include fair payment for content as well as creating a sustainable space for independent journalism.

When Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) made the move to make Facebook and Google pay for news content on digital platforms, it appeared that the commission wanted to gain some control to regulate tech giants monopoly.

Canada has taken a similar approach also and Facebook and Google reacted in a similar way as they did in Australia. Would things be different in South Africa? Will the tech giants continue to succumb?

According to TechCabal the Terms of Reference will be:

  • Underpinned by the value of a properly funded press to advance a well-functioning democracy, including the diversity of views from smaller media businesses and media owned by historically disadvantaged persons
  • Focus on the interaction and dependency of South African news media businesses on relevant digital platforms as an intermediary, distributor, and link to online users for the dissemination of news content online. This includes the impact, thereof, on news media businesses to aggregate, display, create, and monetise their news content online
  • The inquiry will cover search engines, social media sites, video sharing platforms, and news aggregation platforms. It will also look at new technologies adopted by digital platforms, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) search support, including ChatGPT

By Elijah Christopher 



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