Pirates oppose the Google and Facebook Tax

Pirate Party Australia is disappointed but unsurprised that the Australian Labor Party, rather than standing up for everyday Australian internet users, side with the Liberal National Coalition on yet another round of legislative nonsense that panders to the interests of their corporate masters.[1]

We are, however, surprised and disappointed that the Australian Greens have chosen to endorse what amounts to a stealth tax targeted at Google and Facebook, except paid directly to Murdoch’s News Corp, to maintain his failing business model. In addition to paying royalties to News Corp, the Greens are asking Facebook and Google to hand over details of algorithmic changes and data collection to inform News Corp’s “business decisions”. Little wonder Google might pull their search product, with their trade secrets under threat. This completely ignores the referral value provided to news media organisations, which Google estimates at greater than $200 million[2] and Facebook greater than $400 million[3].

The Pirates wonder at the cowardice of these parties in avoiding what could be world leading legislation in user privacy. By indulging such tantrum-throwing, the Liberals abandon their stated virtues of free enterprise and a competitive marketplace of ideas in exchange for groveling cronyism, the Labor party betrays the interests of their most staunch constituents, and the Greens are blinded by their mistrust of private enterprise.

Luckily, despite how threatened these parties are by digital innovation, the Pirate Party is here to call out this foul play.

The ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry (2017) noted that vast troves of data are collected from consumers via ever expanding sources, and that there is a disconnect between how data is treated and how consumers think it should be treated. Pirate Party Australia endorses the ACCC’s call to empower and protect user privacy, noting that such laws will increase consumer trust while encouraging competition[4].

This comes as the Australian Human Rights Commission renews its call for a tort of privacy[5] which would allow meaningful action to be taken to address breaches of privacy, such as a major digital platform collecting user data for resale to the highest bidder. Pirate Party Australia endorses the call by the Australian Law Reform Commission in their 2014 report Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era[6] to implement a tort of privacy in Australian consumer legislation.

Pirate Party Australia notes the concern that ordinary Australians are expressing around Google’s threat to leave Australia[2]. We also note that Google reported $4.8 billion revenue in 2019[7] and stand with Australians against bullying by large international corporations. A tax on income made in an Australian market should be levied to support public Australian services, but our government’s News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code instead pays out to large Australian corporations who have consistently bullied the Australian government[8]. We note News Corp’s reported $2.1 billion revenue for 2019, on which it paid little or no tax at all[9].

We note that the Greens’ amendment to the bill which has extended it to include the ABC and SBS, but also note that the government should be funding them properly anyway. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s protestations of supporting “media diversity” and how “public interest journalism plays a critical role in Australian society” ring hollow due to his attempts to exclude public broadcasters from the code, combined with constant backroom budget cuts to the ABC’s vital services.

We stand with the tech industry as Australian software company Atlassian[10] and father of the internet Vint Cerf[11] both oppose this legislation, saying that it harms the Australian tech industry and threatens the existence of a free and open internet by unfairly charging the provider of a free service. We also stand with media organisations The Conversation[12] and Country Press Australia[13][1] in opposing this legislation as bad for small and struggling media organisations.

Pirate Party Australia calls for a fair use exemption in law that will allow Google and Facebook to continue to host article headlines and snippets without charge, and also calls for increased user privacy protections. Interested viewers can join our livestream this Friday 29th at 7pm AEDT to hear from the European Pirate Party about how they fought a similar link tax in Europe in 2019[14].

[1] https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/time-is-running-out-nine-news-lead-push-for-parliament-to-make-tech-giants-pay-20210121-p56vua.html
[2] https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/google-admits-to-removing-local-news-content-in-experiment-20210113-p56tux.html
[3] https://www.theage.com.au/business/companies/there-s-no-other-law-like-this-in-australia-facebook-hits-out-at-digital-media-code-20210120-p56vkk.html
[4] https://www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/inquiries-finalised/digital-platforms-inquiry-0
[5] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3705881
[6] https://www.alrc.gov.au/publication/serious-invasions-of-privacy-in-the-digital-era-alrc-report-123/
[7] https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/google-s-australian-revenue-hits-4-8bn-20200514-p54t30.html
[8] https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2020/10/kevin-rudds-news-corp-royal-commission-petition-is-now-australias-most-signed-parliamentary-e-petition-ever/
[9] https://www.crikey.com.au/2020/12/11/news-corp-tax-dodging/
[10] https://www.theage.com.au/technology/behind-the-8-ball-atlassian-says-australia-being-left-behind-due-to-bad-tech-regulation-20210121-p56vrc.html
[11] https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/fundamental-challenge-to-free-and-open-internet-google-vp-vint-cerf-slams-media-code-20210119-p56v57.html
[12] https://theconversation.com/the-conversations-submission-to-the-australian-senate-inquiry-into-the-news-media-bargaining-code-153532
[13] https://www.crikey.com.au/2021/01/19/small-regional-publishers-news-bargaining-code-senate/
[14] https://www.facebook.com/events/784312818829207

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