In a stunning flex of power, Facebook has banned the sharing of posts from Australian news outlets and some government services after a dispute over a new law that would require Facebook to pay a fee to host Australian content.
Under a new law proposed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, major tech companies from which people get their news would have to pay a fee to Australian publications as compensation for the right to host their content. Google and Facebook have both fought to prevent the law from being implemented, but whereas Google caved and reached a $100 million settlement with Australian news publications to host their content, Facebook has stuck to their guns and banned the posting of Australian media on their platform.
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” said William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand. He also went on to say the legislation “seeks to penalise Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for,” and that the value exchange between the platform and publishers actually “runs in favour of the publishers.”
The effects of the immediate ban were immediately felt by the site’s Australian population. Multiple major news outlets were shut out of the platform, as expected, but so were pages such as the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, ACT Government, and the Bureau of Meteorology. These public services had their pages wiped clean and were unable to share new content relevant to Australians.
Facebook’s news ban hammer having a lot of collateral damage. pic.twitter.com/mP4pfd3nL5
— Josh Taylor (@joshgnosis) February 17, 2021
Facebook blocking health information in the middle of a global pandemic is utterly irresponsible.
Mark Zuckerberg, a mega-billionaire is censoring what news and information Australians can access.
— 💚🌏 Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) February 17, 2021
The New York Times viewed the split between Facebook and Google as indicative of the way both companies view news. Google, it writes, “has long been to organize the world’s information, an ambition that is not achievable without up-to-the-minute news. For Facebook, news is not as central. Instead, the company positions itself as a network of users coming together to share photos, political views, internet memes, videos — and, on occasion, news articles.”
Australian Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has stated that he and Mark Zuckerberg are in discussion to “find a pathway forward.”
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