Locked in an intense duel with social media giant Facebook at home, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that he has discussed "the situation" with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi as the world is eagerly watching "what Australia is doing".
The call followed the introduction of a landmark law in the Australian parliament, which will force social media platforms to pay Australian media for news content published on their platforms. The move has evoked a mixed response from the goliaths of the digital world. While Google said it is working out a deal with major Australian media organisations such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Facebook announced Thursday that it is restricting the availability of news on Facebook in Australia after working closely on regulation with the Australian government for the last three years.
Morrison described the move as a threat.
"They may be changing the world, but that doesn't mean they should run it," the Australian PM posted on Facebook adding that the social media platform's move to "unfriend Australia" would "confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them."
It is likely that India, which is fighting its own battles with the oligarchs of the social media would have responded sympathetically to Morrison's angst.
Last week, India's Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told Rajya Sabha that action could be taken against various social media platforms if they are found spreading fake news, inciting violence or flouting Indian laws.
"There is freedom of speech but Article 19A says that this is subject to reasonable restrictions. We respect social media a lot, it has empowered common people. Social media has a big role in the Digital India programme. However, if social media are misused to spread fake news and violence, then action will be taken on the misuse of social media in India whether Twitter or else," said Prasad.
The Indian government has already expressed its displeasure to Twitter after it "unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts" on its order to remove certain tweets amid the ongoing farmers' protests.
"When Capitol Hill in Washington was ransacked and police administration took action, some micro blogging companies stood in support of them. But when the iconic Red Fort in Delhi was attacked, they behaved differently. Such double standard is unacceptable," Prasad had said in the parliament.
During their telecon, Morrison and Modi shared their thoughts on taking those social media platforms on which aren't adhering to the rules, regulations and constitution of the respective countries.
"Great to talk to my good friend PM @narendramodi again. As Comprehensive Strategic Partners, we can work together on common challenges incl #COVID19, the circular economy, oceans & an open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific. We also discussed progress of our media platform bill," Morrison tweeted today.
Modi-Morrison talk happened just before Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Ann Payne, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar got into a huddle virtually, highlighting their shared attributes as political democracies during the third India-Australia-Japan-USA Quad Ministerial Meeting Thursday evening.
"Spoke with my good friend PM @ScottMorrisonMP today. Reiterated our commitment to consolidating our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Also discussed regional issues of common interest. Look forward to
working together for peace, prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific," the Indian PM tweeted.
Today, while speaking during the valedictory function of India-Australia Circular Economy Hackathon, Modi said that the strong India-Australia partnership will play an important role in shaping the post-Covid world.
"And our youth, our young innovators, our startups, will be at the forefront of this partnership. I have full confidence in the energy, creativity and out-of-box thinking of our youth. They can offer sustainable, holistic solutions to not just our two countries but to the whole world," he said in address.
Facebook, Google and Twitter are facing a tough time all over the world, including the US where the tech giants are due to face a new House hearing next month, over the misinformation and fake news plaguing their online platforms.
Earlier this week, Italy’s Competition and Market Authority had fined Facebook seven million euros for failing to comply with a 2018 order to change its data handling practices.
In 2019, the company had been fined 1.2 billion Hungarian forints by Hungary's competition authority for falsely advertising its services as being free on its landing page and help center.