Facebook cuts off news in Australia as fight with government escalates

Facebook has barred Australians from finding or sharing news content on its services, defying a controversial proposed law by the Australian government.

The company’s action comes after months of tension with the Australian government, which has proposed a law that would require technology companies to pay publishers when their articles are posted by users, CNN reported

The move on Thursday prevented Australian users from posting or sharing news content on the platform.

According to the social platform, people and publishers in Australia will no longer be able to share or see any news from local or international outlets.

This decision appears to be the most restrictive move Facebook has ever taken against content publishers.

Australian Bargaining Code

The proposed Australian bargaining code designed by the government and competition regulator is to address a power imbalance between the social media giants and publishers when negotiating payment for news content used on the tech firms’ sites, Reuters reports.

“Under the code, news outlets will be required to negotiate commercial deals individually or collectively with Facebook and Google. If they cannot reach an agreement, an arbitrator will decide whose offer is more reasonable. If Facebook or Google break any resulting agreements, they can be fined up to A$10 million ($7.4 million) in civil penalties.”

The law also requires tech firms to give media outlets notice when they change search algorithms in a way affecting the order in which content appears.

They must also share their use of consumer data extracted from news content on their sites.

“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 said.

“Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook does not steal news content. Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook.”

“I hope in the future, we can include news for people in Australia once again,” she added

Meanwhile, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison on his Facebook page blasted the company, saying its action to “unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing.”

“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them,” Mr Morrison wrote on Thursday. “They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it,” he added.

“We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code. Just as we weren’t intimidated when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms,” he said.

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