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Does Facebook’s decision to pay content creators make it a publisher under the IT Rules? 

The platform’s new move to hand out cash for content is an attempt to bolster its standing in the social audio space.

Facebook is using its financial edge to break into live audio and compete with the likes of Clubhouse and Discord. The company is offering to pay creators up to $50,000 to use its live audio rooms feature, according to a report by The Information.

Earlier this year, Instagram and Youtube also implemented similar strategies to promote Reels and Shorts. Does this trend of platforms paying creators dispute their status as intermediaries under the IT Rules 2021, making them publishers instead?

In India, the platform vs publisher debate has become more relevant than ever with the IT Rules coming into effect. Whether the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube will be treated as publishers or intermediaries will define how they will be regulated and how much responsibility they bear for the content on their ‘platforms’.

Facebook pays musicians and creators to compete with Clubhouse

The report by The Information has significant details about Facebook’s deal with creators to use Live Audio, the company’s Clubhouse competitor:

  • Payment: Facebook is offering creators anywhere in the range of $10,000 and $50,000 to use the platform’s live audio feature alongside an additional $10,000 as fee for inviting guests, the report said.
  • Format: According to the report, creators will be expected to host four to six sessions of at least 30 minutes at length. This also goes on to show that the company is curating both creators and the format of their content.

This decision is not something Facebook is being sneaky about. In fact, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg boasted in July about aiming to pay creators $1 billion by the end of 2022:

A post by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing plans to pay creators

A trend of companies paying creators for their content

Facebook is not alone in paying creators to produce content for the platform. Similar moves have been made by platforms across the board:

  • Instagram: Instagram is paying creators upto $10,000 to create Reels on their platform, TechCrunch reported earlier this month. One user was offered $8500 for reels that get a total of 9.8 million views.

  • Youtube: Youtube announced a $100 million fund for Youtube Shorts creators, rewarding them for their most engaging and most-viewed short-form videos till 2022, the company announced in May.
  • Snapchat: Through its Spotlight Challenges programme, Snapchat is offering cash prizes for top performing Spotlight content. The challenges will be designed to encourage the use of specific Lenses, Sounds or #Topics, the company announced in October this year.

How do the IT Rules define platforms and publishers?

Under the IT Rules 2021, publishers and social media intermediaries are treated differently in terms of their liability for content. Here’s how the rules define publishers and social media intermediaries:

  • Publisher of online curated content: According to the rules, such publishers are those who perform “a significant role in determining the online curated content being made available”.
  • Social media intermediary: The rules define a social media intermediary as “an intermediary which primarily or solely enables online interaction between two or more users and allows them to create, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information using its services.”

To promote their own platforms, social media companies have been paying selected artists, in some cases even dictating the format of content being put out by such artists whether through direct contracts or incentives. In such instances, social media platforms fit the definition of publishers under the IT Rules,  “playing a significant role in determining the online curated content being made available.” Whether they will be treated as such remains to be seen.

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Written By

Reporter at MediaNama. Email: nishant@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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