In the month of August last year, Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal had published a hit job article quoting some named and unnamed sources to paint a picture that the social media giant Facebook was controlled by BJP in India, despite the platform having a glaring left-leaning bias. The article didn’t have any substantial evidence to back its claims but as is the case with most mainstream newspapers of the West, mere insinuations work because the legacy of the publication supersedes everything. However, fast forward to March 2021, and one can understand why India was dragged by WSJ in its fight with Facebook. And, the reason? For monetary gains by leveraging its news corp. industry.
According to an Indian Express report, Facebook has finally agreed to pay Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for its journalism content in Australia. Reported extensively by TFI, the Australian Parliament had recently passed a bill that mandates companies such as Google and Facebook, whose primary source of revenue is advertising, to pay local publishers for news content.
Initially, both Google and Facebook put up a united front saying they would not yield to the Australian government’s demands with the former even threatening to leave the country and the latter temporarily blocking news links inside the country. However, with the Scott Morrison government not budging an inch, both the tech giants had to circumvent around their original plans and cede to the demands of the down under regime.
First, it was Google that agreed to pay Rupert Murdoch’s news corp for the journalism news content and subsequently Facebook was made to follow the suit as well. Involving India in its fight with Facebook as a means to an end for Wall Street Journal and by the looks of the recent deal with the Mark Zuckerberg led company in Australia, Rupert Murdoch has managed to successfully gain what he had set out to achieve.
If Facebook had indeed colluded with BJP or for that matter, the Indian government, it would not have agreed to pay a shilling to Murdoch. The multiyear deal, announced on Tuesday, includes news content from major Murdoch conservative media outlets like The Australian, a national newspaper, and the news site news.com.au, as well as another metropolitan, regional and community publications. Sky News Australia, also owned by Murdoch, has extended an existing agreement with Facebook.
The reach Murdoch has throughout the globe owing to his multibillion newspaper and television channels helped him lobby hard for the deal — whose seeds were sown back in August last year. Facebook might have played along with Wall Street Journal’s version of ‘BJP controlling Facebook’ at the time as it pandered to their agenda but now that subtle shifting of the goalpost has come back to haunt the social media giant.
The Modi government is still intact in its full glory and might even force Facebook to walk down the same road of ‘News bargaining code’ in the country and it might be a double whammy for the Silicon Valley company who has already been deceived by Wall Street Journal in Australia by dragging India through the mud.