Social media giants Google and Facebook will be required in Australia to pay traditional news outlets to publish their content, according to a new code of conduct drafted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC had been asked by the federal government to issue guidelines on commercial dealings between tech companies and media outlets. 

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg believes this new code of conduct would "create a level playing field" between the two.

"We want Google and Facebook to continue to provide these services to the Australian community, which are so much loved and used by Australians," Frydenberg said. “But we want it to be on our terms. We want it to be in accordance with our law and we want it to be fair.” 

The ACCC will determine which news outlets are eligible to receive payments. Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said there would be “tough penalties” for social media outlets that don’t comply with the code.

"There are a range of different penalties, one of those possibilities is 10 per cent of the company's entire Australian turnover,” Fletcher said. "These are very high penalties … they're tough penalties."

In the U.S., big tech companies such as Google and Facebook have been accused of killing the news industry. These companies have been accused of profiting from the work of journalists, while taking away the ad revenue that keeps traditional news outlets afloat.

“They’re basically a country, they’re that powerful. Not only do they have the power to tip elections and control what kind of news they’re putting at the top of their feeds, but they’re also killing journalists, financially,” Laura Bassett, a freelance journalist formerly with the Huffington Post told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2019. “So, it’s just creating a real problem when one or two companies has the power to cripple the free press as we know it.”

In May, Vice Media CEO Nancy Dubuc slammed big tech as a “great threat to journalism” in a memo announcing the layoffs of 155 employees.

“We grew our digital business faster than anyone at a time when we believed that as more pies were baked, we’d keep getting a slice,” she wrote. “But we aren’t seeing the return from the platforms benefiting and making money from our hard work. Now, after many years of this, the squeeze is becoming a chokehold. Platforms are not just taking a larger slice of the pie, but almost the whole pie... 36,000+ lost jobs in journalism is enough to take your breath away.”