- The proposed legislation dictates that both Facebook and Google pay media outlets if they want to use their content on any platform.
- Unlike Facebook, Google has signed payment agreements with major Australian media.
- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that his government will not be intimidated by the measure.
Facebook has blocked the option of viewing and sharing news on its platform within Australia in opposition to a proposed law in the country. The decision, which affects both the media and users who use the platform in Australia, was communicated by the social media platform via a blog post on Wednesday.
Facebook took the decision in response to a controversial bill introduced by the Australian government called the News Media Bargaining Code.
The proposed legislation dictates that both Facebook and Alphabet– Google’s parent company– pay media outlets if they want to use their content on any platform.
Unlike Facebook, Google has signed payment agreements with major Australian media. Facebook’s action came just hours after Google agreed to pay tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for content on news sites across its media empire.
Blocking Facebook not only affects local media but also the Australian government’s websites, such as the Bureau of Meteorology, health agencies, and even literary magazines. They even blocked their page from sharing news about themselves on their platform.
Facebook later claimed that this was a mistake and many of these pages are, at the moment, back online. For its part, it seems that the measure frees international media that will be able to publish news content on Facebook, although Australian users will not be able to see it or share it.
“What the proposed law introduced in Australia fails to recognize is the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships, wrote in a blog post.
“Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook does not steal news content. Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook.” Brown added, “I hope in the future, we can include news for people in Australia once again,”
Australian Government Responds
In reaction to the move, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that his government will not be intimidated by the measure, which has left the users of the oceanic country “helpless.”
“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” he said.
Prime minister Morrison hence called upon Facebook to work constructively with the government, “as Google recently demonstrated in good faith.”
Morrison said big tech companies could be changing the world, but this doesn’t mean they have to manage it. “I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues. We simply won’t be intimidated,” he emphasized.
Meanwhile, Elaine Pearson, director of Human Rights Watch in Australia, considered it a “dangerous turn” for Facebook to censor the flow of information. Cutting off access to vital information to an entire country in the dead of night is inconceivable, she explained.