Pattern Matching

There’s a Smarter Way to Make Tech Pay for News

How to bolster the media without breaking the internet

Will Oremus
OneZero
Published in
7 min readFeb 20, 2021

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Photo: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

A proposed law intended to bolster the struggling news media at the expense of thriving tech platforms is playing out quite poorly in Australia.

Google reluctantly obeyed the legislation, which is expected to pass in the next week, by agreeing to pay large sums to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and other corporate media giants in exchange for linking to their articles. (News Corp is the dominant player in Australia’s heavily concentrated media market.) Facebook refused, opting instead to ban all news from its network in Australia. In the process, Facebook appears to have also blocked posts from public health agencies, weather sites, political candidates, and nonprofits helping victims of domestic violence, among others. It even briefly took out some of its own pages. The company says it is working to restore non-news content.

It’s hard to say whether Facebook’s approach is worse, but it’s easy to see that the proposed law — which would require the dominant internet platforms to negotiate with all news organizations above a certain revenue threshold for the right to host links to their content — is deeply flawed, even for those who sympathize with its motivations. (I wrote

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