Microsoft’s Brad Smith calls on the US to follow Australia’s lead on Media Code

microsoft media code

• “Technology has been both a positive and negative force for democracy”

This morning, Microsoft President Brad Smith posted a blog calling for the United States to consider adopting proposals like the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code laws currently under consideration in Australia. The laws, often just referred to as the Media Code laws, aim to level the playing field between digital platforms and news publishers and seek to ensure a bigger and fairer share of online revenue for news organisations.

This follows on from a statement Smith made last week making it clear that Microsoft and Bing would never pull out of the Australian markets after Google threatened to leave  Australia if the Media Code laws went through without amendments. 

Writing about the importance of social media in democracy, Smith wrote:

“Perhaps the most remarkable development in recent political history is not that Americans disagreed in 2020 about who to elect as president; it’s the fact that, after the election, so many disagreed about who had actually won.

“As in so many other instances, technology has been both a positive and negative force for democracy. It has created unprecedented opportunities for people to learn about events, share their views and even organize their efforts. It was only a decade ago that technology created optimism about democracy amid an Arab Spring. And, in 2015, when two extremist brothers in France brutally killed a dozen journalists at Charlie Hebdo, almost two million people in Paris used social media to organize a peaceful Sunday march to support democracy and a free press everywhere.

“But the last five years have also seen this tool become a weapon, and January 2021 unfortunately saw this come home to roost. Democracy’s cornerstone has always been the peaceful transition of power.”

Smith also asks readers to consider who both players in this debate should be serving.

“The ultimate question is what values we want the tech sector and independent journalism to serve. Yes, Australia’s proposal will reduce the bargaining imbalance that currently favors tech gatekeepers and will help increase opportunities for independent journalism. But this a defining issue of our time that goes to the heart of our democratic freedoms.”

The full blog post can be read here.

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