Facebook opposes new regulation, blocks Australian users from news content

*Social media giant Facebook is pushing back against a proposed media law that would require it to pay to surface news links in Australia

*Facebook’s actions ‘arrogant’ and ‘disappointing’, says Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Facebook has announced that it will block Australian users from viewing all news links on its platform.

The action comes in response to proposed legislation from the Australian Government that would force global advertising giants (or “digital platform corporations”), such as Facebook and Google, to pay news publishers or organisations for the right to share their content.

ConsumerConnect had reported that in ensuring fairness to the new media industry by offering the ad revenue it is entitled to, Microsoft said it would support an Australian Government shift to media rules that require big, global technology corporations to share profits with newspapers when they link to news content.

Microsoft President Brad Smith in a new blog post, said his company would be in favour of the profit-sharing concept originally proposed by Australia

However, Google strongly opposes the idea of profit sharing with the news organisations for links to their news content.

Google recently went as far as threatening to pull its search engine out of Australia, if it is ‘forced’ to pay to present links and snippets of news articles.

Mel Silva, Google Australia and New Zealand VP, told Australia’s Senate Economics Legislation Committee January 2021, that “the free service we offer Australian users, and our business model, has been built on the ability to link freely between websites.”

Facebook in a blog post Wednesday, February 17, 2021, also argued that the proposed law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content.”

The tech giant wrote: “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.”

However, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a Facebook post described Facebook’s actions “arrogant” and “disappointing”, and he vowed to keep pushing the company towards a resolution.

Morrison stated: “These actions will only 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.

“We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament” as the bill heads to a vote.

“I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian Government, as Google recently demonstrated in good faith.”

It was gathered officials from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) also expressed disappointment with Facebook’s action, and vowed not to let it deter them from pursuing their goal.

ABC’s Managing Director in a statement said: “Despite key issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic having ongoing effects on all Australians, Facebook has today removed important and credible news and information sources from its Australian platform.

“We will continue our discussions with Facebook today following this development.”

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