Side by side with news publishers embroiled in a battle with Google and Facebook, Microsoft said Thursday that the company would support Canadian efforts to make big technology pay for news.
Microsoft’s claim is the latest shift in a global power struggle between governments and big tech, with the news media industry in the middle.
Ottawa is in the process of proposing rules in Canada that are expected to be similar to those in Australia and are considered impractical by Google and Facebook.
The Australian model, which is still under scrutiny by that country’s government, would require large technology firms to negotiate payments for the use of content created by media companies. If no agreement can be reached, an arbitrator would choose between each side’s final offers.
In response to the proposal, Google threatened to source its search engine services from Australia.
“This has created an unusual divide within the technology sector, and we’ve heard from people asking if Microsoft would support a similar proposal in the US, Canada, the European Union and other countries,” Microsoft said in a published blog post on Thursday.
“The short answer is yes.”
Microsoft President Brad Smith said in the post that the Australian model is part of what is needed for “technology, journalism, and American democracy itself,” and that the recent right-wing extremist uprising at the US Capitol has shown that “the American democracy in a fragile state. “
“In short, independent journalism is critical to the social cohesion that is essential to democracy,” wrote Smith.
He went on to suggest that his company’s search engine, Bing, adhere to the rules proposed in Australia. Bing has less than five percent of the market share in Australia and between 10 and 15 percent of the market in Canada and the United Kingdom, he said.
“The key would be to create a more competitive market that the government can allow,” wrote Smith. “However, as we have made clear, it is our pleasure to operate a quality search service with lower economic margins than Google and higher economic returns for the press.”
Media organizations around the world, including Torstar in Canada, are committed to ensuring that large technology companies that advertise news articles on their websites share some of the resulting advertising revenue with news publishers.
Ottawa has signaled that it will help develop a framework to achieve this – this is expected this year – and Australia has unveiled one of the first models the Canadian government should consider.
“There is a clear imbalance in market power that we want to address through new laws,” said Camille Gagné-Raynauld, spokeswoman for Canada’s Department of Cultural Heritage, in a statement to the star.
“For this reason, the (Canadian Heritage) Minister (Steven) Guilbeault has contacted Australia, France and countries that are currently working on various compensation solutions. We believe that a more sustainable and consistent set of rules will ultimately provide better protection for local, trusted, high quality news content across Canada. “
Google and Facebook have objected to the model as it currently stands in Australia. Facebook has stated that it could potentially prevent Australians from sharing articles and Google has stated that it may no longer be able to make its search engine available in the country as it cites financial problems due to the new framework.
Microsoft has told Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that its Bing search engine could fill any void that Google has left.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
What do you think of the role big tech should play in local news?
Conversations are the opinions of our readers and are subject to the code of conduct. The star does not support these opinions.