Tuesday, 02 March, 2021

Facebook news goes dark in Australia as content payment dispute grows

ACT Health Facebook page ACT Health was among the many Facebook pages down this morning. Image Screenshot
Gustavo Carr | 18 February, 2021, 21:47

Facebook's decision to pull news from its platform in Australia comes in response to legislation that would force tech giants to pay for sharing news content.

Last night Internet users in Australia took to Twitter to report local scores of Facebook pages being wiped clean of content - including hospitals, universities, unions, government departments and the bureau of meteorology, to name a few.

"The company will continue to see growth in ad revenue despite their users' lack of ability to share news content. Facebook's decision today will undoubtedly affect many in the Australian digital industry, and the world will watch as this could continue to spark changes across the globe", he added.

"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".

The PM admonished the company over its bungled shutdown of news content in the Australian market which saw many government health and service pages blocked this morning.

The company announced last night that Australians can no longer view or share news on the platform because of proposed laws that would make digital giants pay for journalism.

Facebook announced Thursday it has blocked Australians from viewing and sharing news on the platform because of proposed laws in the country to make digital giants pay for journalism. "However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted", a Facebook company spokesperson said in the statement.

Thomson thanked Australia's Government, Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair, Rod Sims, for their work to implement payment and negotiation schemes for media organisations across Google and Facebook platforms and for "standing firm for their country and journalism".

Facebook said on Wednesday that it is preventing people inside Australia from accessing news stories on its platform.

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During a January hearing in Australia's senate, Facebook had suggested it could block content in the country if the bill becomes law. "What the proposed law introduced in Australia fails to recognize is the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers".

On the other hand the Australian government, itself a monopoly of sorts, has attempted to impose conditions on Facebook that the company finds unacceptable.

To that end, Austrlia's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the AP last July that the the proposed bill was meant to give the Australian media, "a fair go" on major tech platforms. While those are already being restored, they serve as a brutal reminder that Facebook is God in its own domain and nobody is safe from its wrath. Sometimes they'll include recommendations for other related newsletters or services we offer.

"It's a massive step forward we have seen this week", Frydenberg said of the Google deals.

Google made peace with Australia's biggest publisher, Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp, and agreed to a three-year licensing deal.

The social media giant today announced as a direct outcome of the News Media Bargaining Code's endorsement by the Australian Government last week, it would restrict Australian media content from appearing across its platform and news feeds of its worldwide audiences.

"The Morrison government's position is very clear - we will legislate this code", Frydenberg said, claiming the news shutdown confirmed the company's huge market power.

Facebook added that it was continuing its third-party fact-checking partnerships with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Agence France-Press (AFP), who review content and debunk false claims online. An advertisement on News Corp's main Australian news site said, "You don't need Facebook to get your news", alongside a link to the company's smartphone app.

Easton said the public would ask why the platforms were responding differently to the proposed law that would create an arbitration panel to set a price for news in cases where the platforms and news businesses failed to agree.