Thursday, 25 February, 2021

Facebook's Australian news ban took down government Pages

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Deanna Wagner | 19 February, 2021, 15:36

Australia's prime minister on Friday urged Facebook to lift its blockade of Australian users and return to the negotiating table with news publishing businesses, warning that other countries would follow his government's example in making digital giants pay for journalism.

Morrison blasted Facebook for taking down pages of domestic and foreign news outlets for Australians as well as several state government and emergency department accounts.

That meant the social media giant faced a wave of outrage, not just from Australian newspapers and politicians but around the world.

Guilbeault, in charge of drafting similar media legislation that is to be unveiled in the coming months, condemned Facebook's action in Australia and said it would not deter Ottawa.

"This post can't be shared", the website said.

In a massive escalation in the growing tensions between Facebook and the Australian government, Facebook has now banned all news media from Australia from being placed on its platform. It is doing this because it is not willing to pay anyone for sharing news.

The legislation mentioned by the notice has not yet been enacted.

Mr Morrison said he applauded Google for the way they have "engaged" and "respected" the process - after the search-engine flagged concerns early on. Even Facebook's own page was briefly taken down.

We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code.

Facebook said the proposed Australian law "fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it".

The country's Health Minster Greg Hunt also denounced Facebook's decision. "It is an assault on people's freedom and, in particular, it's an utter abuse of big technologies' market power and control over technology".

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Google declined comment on Facebook's action.

Australia's proposal requires a negotiation safety net through an arbitration panel. Morrison was also discussing Australia's proposed law with the leaders of Britain, Canada and France.

News publishers outside Australia leapt on Facebook's tactics as evidence that the company, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, can not be trusted as the gatekeeper for their industry. The company negotiated deals with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Seven West Media.

As part of Wednesday's agreement, News Corp publications in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia will participate in News Showcase.

Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson described the block - which has also impacted charities, Indigenous community pages and even Facebook's own page - as an "alarming and unsafe turn of events".

Health Minster Greg Hunt said the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne still didn't have its feed fixed after more than eight hours. The Australian Tax Office's most recent annual corporate tax transparency report indicates Facebook made over AUD $582 million in revenue in 2018-19 but only declared a taxable income of AUD $51.4 million and paid just AUD $15.4 million in tax.

"I reiterated Australia remains committed to implementing the code", Frydenberg added.

News Corp. said it would receive "significant payments" from Google under the three-year agreement, which includes heavyweight news organizations throughout the English-speaking world such as The Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the USA, the Times and the Sun in the United Kingdom, and The Australian and Sky News in Australia.

"I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian Government, as Google recently demonstrated in good faith", he concluded. The Australian Finance Minister, Josh Frydenberg, said that this is "wrong" and "unnecessary".

"We're a mum's website", she said.

The California tech giant has been investing in news through its Facebook Journalism Project in a number of countries but has sought to avoid a mandatory scheme of paying for sharing links, saying it would set a bad precedent for the internet. "But they haven't", he said.

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