Social media giant Facebook, and search engine Google’s popularity in today’s day and age knows no bounds. Such is the traction of these platforms that their names are almost synonymous to that of ‘internet’ in the common language. Utilising this popularity, especially amongst Indian users, the profits of these companies have escalated by leaps and bounds. However, for lack of a proper mechanism and righteousness, the same profits have not been shared with the Indian content creators.
Of all countries, India is among the biggest markets for Facebook. With high smartphone usage and amongst the lowest rates of data in the world, Indians are well versed with not just Facebook, but also Instagram and WhatsApp messaging services, which are also operated by Facebook Inc.
As per regulatory documents, Facebook India’s revenues grew 43% year-on-year to about INR 1,277.3 crore in 2019-20. At the same time, its net profit increased by 107% to 135.7 crores in Financial Year 2020 from INR 65.3 crore, a year ago. It is worth noting that the profits have more than doubled for Facebook India in 2020.
Similarly, Google shows that its revenues from India have grown by 34.8% to INR 5,593.8 crore in 2019-20, over the previous financial year. The net profit has increased by 23.9% in the same year, coming out at INR 586.2 crore.
Traditionally a social media platform, Facebook is no longer limited to socialising but has expanded to cover a wide spectrum of activities. In recent times, it has become a popular medium to promote businesses and bring traffic to online blogs and other platforms. A major chunk of Facebook India’s profits is derived from advertising. Along with that, it has become a medium to share news and news articles.
Likewise, branching out of its traditional role of a search engine, Google is also, today, a major platform for sharing news.
However, in a stance that aptly illustrates corporate greed, the social media giant does not share its profits with original content creators. All the revenue earned through the media content and news articles shared on Facebook India are strictly kept with Facebook itself, and the source of the said revenue is left empty-handed. This system of manipulation has led to the downfall of small businesses and startups, as they do not have the means or resources to take on a social media giant.
Recognising this sheer exploitation, Australia has finalised plans to make Facebook and Google pay its media outlets for news content. This move, first in the world, is aimed at protecting independent journalism. According to the legislation, big tech firms will have to negotiate with local publishers and broadcasters to decide on a suitable monetary amount for the content. If they cannot agree to common terms, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide for them.
On this, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said, “Our legislation will help ensure that the rules of the digital world mirror the rules of the physical world … and ultimately sustain our media landscape.”
A welcome legalisation, Indian Government should follow suit and make platforms like Facebook share their revenue and profits with the content creators. Until now, India has stood by and watched all the advertising revenue go to the social media giants, starving the original content creators and newsrooms of the revenue source which is ideally theirs. Not only is the system of taking news content without paying for it unfair, but is also detrimental to the small businesses amidst the COVID-hit economy. To protect the rights of the MSMEs, startups and new-age millennials, the Indian Government must introduce an equitable legislature for righteous business practices.