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Microsoft president calls on other countries to 'copy' Australian media bargaining code

ABC NEWS logo ABC NEWS 12/02/2021

Microsoft president Brad Smith has urged other nations to implement legislation similar to Australia's media bargaining code, arguing the proposed legislation "strengthens democracy".

In a blog post on Microsoft's website, Mr Smith said the United States Government should not object to Australia's media bargaining code, urging governments such as the US, Canada and the European Union to follow Australia's lead in forcing tech giants to pay for news content.

"Yes, Australia's proposal will reduce the bargaining imbalance that currently favours tech gatekeepers and will help increase opportunities for independent journalism," the blog post read.

"But this a defining issue of our time that goes to the heart of our democratic freedoms.

"The United States should not object to a creative Australian proposal that strengthens democracy by requiring tech companies to support a free press. It should copy it instead."

Although Microsoft isn't covered by the current legislation, the company came out in support of the code last week, saying it was willing to comply with the reforms.

Other tech giants such as Google and Facebook are threatening to withdraw or limit their services in Australia if the media bargaining code is introduced.

Mr Smith said Facebook and Google had been successfully urging Washington to protest the Australian laws on their behalf for the past "two years".

But he called on the Biden Administration to change tack.

Citing recent increases in online "disinformation and misinformation", as well as last month's US Capitol riot, Mr Smith said such legislation would help strengthen democracy by addressing "the competitive imbalance between the tech sector and an independent press".

"Facebook and Google persuaded the Trump administration to object to Australia's proposal," he said.

"However, as the United States takes stock of the events on January 6, it's time to widen the aperture."

The code was proposed following years of complaints from traditional media outlets that social media platforms benefit from the work of journalists for free.

Google and Facebook continue to argue that media organisations benefit from referrals and clicks through to their websites.

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