Facebook has banned Australians from viewing and sharing news from media outlets in a retaliation against a proposed law that would require tech platforms to pay news publishers.
People in Australia can no longer see or share news on the social media platform, with sites like the Guardian Australia showing ‘no posts’ on their pages as of this morning.
— James Findlay (@james_findlay) February 17, 2021
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” said Facebook’s Australian and New Zealand managing director, Will Easton.
“It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”
Australia’s Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg slammed Facebook’s move as “wrong”, “unnecessary” and “heavy handed”, arguing that the social media platform has damaged its reputation with the Australian people.
This morning, I had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from #Facebook.
He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward.
— Josh Frydenberg (@JoshFrydenberg) February 17, 2021
Australia’s landmark media law is designed to support journalism by making sure that media companies are properly compensated by the digital behemoths for the content they provide.
Google had previously threatened to withdraw its search engine from Australia if the law was passed, but has since struck its own deals with the country’s media companies.
The debate over social media giants paying for news has also made its way to Malta and the EU, with Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba agreeing that Google and Facebook should pay for news.
“With their dominant market position in search, social media and advertising, large digital platforms create power imbalances and benefit significantly from news content,” Agius Saliba told the Financial Times. “I think it is only fair that they pay back a fair amount.”
Saliba, who is involved in EU efforts to regulate the digital space, has proposed having an option of binding arbitration for licensing agreements and an obligation for tech companies to inform publishers about changes to how they rank news stories on their sites.
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