UK

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden ‘to confront Facebook this week’ over blocking news

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden ‘to confront Facebook this week’ over blocking news in Australia as Matt Hancock backs making social media giants pay for publishing links to stories

  • Matt Hancock said he is a ‘great admirer’ of Canada and Australia in interview
  • Both are trying to make the social media giant pay publishers for sharing stories
  • Moves under way to consider making tech giants pay for news content in the UK

The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden will hold talks this week with Facebook over the social media site’s ongoing row with Australia over paying to publish news, it was reported today.

A source close to the minister said he saw Facebook blocking news groups’ pages in Australia as a ‘worrying development’.

It comes after Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, hinted be also backed making social media firms pay for news. 

Mr Hancock said he was a ‘great admirer’ of the countries that are now trying to make the social media giant pay publishers when links to their stories are shared online.

He was asked on Times Radio yesterday about the move, which has triggered a huge political row in Australia with Facebook blocking all sharing of news articles in the country in response to a planned law to make it and Google pay for links.

The Health Secretary said he was a ‘great admirer’ of the countries that are now trying to make the social media giant pay publishers when links to their stories are shared online

Canada has said it is also ‘at the forefront of this battle’ while Google has recently agreed to pay publishers in France for reusing snippets of their stories.

Asked if Britain should follow their lead, Mr Hancock replied: ‘That is a very very good question. I have very strong views on this. All I can say is I’m a great admirer of Australia and Canada.’

Mr Hancock – who was briefly held the post under Theresa May – added that it was a matter for the current Current Secretary Oliver Dowden.

Mr Hancock said: ‘I think this is a very important matter and one that I have no doubt the Culture Secretary will be looking at very closely.’

Mr Dowden has privately expressed his concerns about Facebook’s decision to block news content in Australia and wants to speak both to his counterpart in Australia and to Facebook about the row this week.

Ahead of talks with the social media giant, a source told The Times that Mr Dowden had described Facebook’s actions as a ‘worrying development’.

‘There are clearly intense commercial negotiations under way, but access to news being restricted is a worrying development,’ a the source said.

There are already moves under way to consider making tech giants pay for news content in the UK.

A new Digital Markets Unit is being established within the Competition and Markets Authority watchdog from April in order to enforce a code of conduct for digital platforms such as Google and Facebook

A new Digital Markets Unit is being established within the Competition and Markets Authority watchdog from April in order to enforce a code of conduct for digital platforms such as Google and Facebook

Last month Mr Dowden told a conference: ‘The rise of online advertising has created a fundamental imbalance: between publishers, advertisers and the online platforms upon which they increasingly rely. It’s time to even the playing field.’

He vowed to ‘tackle the devastating knock-on effects that anti-competitive practices have had on our newspaper industry’, as a Government-commissioned review into journalism highlighted.

A new Digital Markets Unit is being established within the Competition and Markets Authority watchdog from April in order to enforce a code of conduct for digital platforms such as Google and Facebook.

That could see them forced to pay licensing fees when they use content taken from news websites, or lose access to user data which would reduce their lucrative ability to make personalised adverts.

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