Facebook has taken an amazing step in banning publishers and users in Australia from sharing or viewing news articles on its platform in response to the Morrison government’s proposed media negotiation laws
According to the negotiating code, which was passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday evening, social media companies will have to pay the media for the use of their content.The law is expected to be passed in the Senate as early as next week and become law
In a blog post on Thursday (AEDT), Facebook said it had resumed the September threat after failing to resolve it in talks with the Australian government
Content on Facebook pages from news sites such as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, News Corp newspapers such as The Australian and The Herald Sun, and all ABC content were no longer available to users beginning Thursday Articles posted by The online youth magazine Junkee Media and the satirical news sites The Betoota Advocate and The Chaser have also been removed. Some Facebook groups run by news agencies do not contain articles
The ban also appears to have destroyed the Facebook pages of government agencies including the Bureau of Meteorology, SA Health, ACT Health and Queensland Health.The pages of several local health districts in Sydney have also been deleted, as has the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne
William Easton, executive director of Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, said the decision was made because the proposed code fundamentally misunderstood the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news contentâ ????
â ???? It has presented us with a tough decision: try to obey a law that ignores the realities of this relationship or stop allowing news content about our services in Australia with a heavy heart we choose the latter Mr. Easton said on the company’s blog
â ???? Unfortunately, this means that people and news organizations in Australia are now prevented from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebookâ ????
In response to Facebook’s announcement Thursday morning, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the government would not withdraw from the Code’s legislation
“We will keep the path we followed”The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and I agreed very much: Mr Fletcher told 2 GB of radio
He said Facebook’s decision to block authoritative news sources would further expose the company to the spread of misinformation and unverified content
“It is very important that we in Australia have a diverse and well-resourced news media sector that is a critical part of our democracy”Well, that may not seem important to a Silicon Valley company, but it is very important to the Australian government and people Mr. Fletcher said
“You are effectively telling Australians if you are looking for reliable news Facebook is not the place to look for it”â ????
Labor, who voted in support of the code in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, said Thursday that the government had not provided a “working code”
“This is not a working code that was landed by this government,” communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said
â ???? It’s up to this government to explain where it’s going from here. The reality is they’ve been talking about the biggest game in the world for the past few weeksâ ????
The ban appears to have been in effect for at least some users who are now unable to post links to Australian news articles on their Facebook pages or see previous articles from major media outlets, according to Easton’s blog, not only preventing Australian outlets from doing so are to share content on Facebook pages, but that international articles from newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times cannot be viewed or republished by Australian users
Nine’s outgoing CEO Hugh Marks said Facebook’s decision was “a real shock” and justified the need for a code
â ???? We thought we had constructive discussions on an outcome that would be positive for all of us. It seems that behind these discussions, all along, it was Facebook’s intention to take this action, maybe even despite an agreement with us Mr. Marks said 2 GB of radio
â ???? They are trying to prove how powerful they are, they sure have proven that the purpose of the legislation is to actually deal with that power and they are kicking a massive own goalâ ????
He said the code should continue and Facebook should continue to be subject to payments to media companies
David Anderson, CEO of ABC, said the national broadcaster was affected and was discussing the change with Facebook
Facebook’s decision comes after several talks between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and the company’s global managing director, Mark Zuckerberg Talks took place on Sunday, and Mr Frydenberg previously described them as “constructive”
“Mark Zuckerberg didn’t convince me to resign if you ask that,” Mr. Frydenberg said in late January of ABC’s
However, industry sources familiar with the government’s discussions on Facebook said Mr Frydenberg did not receive a meaningful notice of Facebook’s plans to enforce its threat today
Mr Frydenberg said on Twitter this morning that he had just spoken to Mr Zuckerberg, who had raised some more issues with the government’s newly proposed laws, “We agreed to continue our conversation to find a way forward” Mr. Frydenberg wrote
News outlets that currently have a relationship with Facebook and are posting articles in their news feed were informed early Thursday morning that their content would be affected
In a message from Andrew Hunter, head of Facebook Australia and New Zealand news partnership, seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the tech platform was “disappointed” that it had to enforce its threat and that it would continue to involve the news outlets to discuss the changes in the coming days
Facebook has been in discussions with news outlets such as Nine Entertainment Co, the owner of this imprint, and News Corp Australia for the past two weeks about paying for their content
But those talks have stalled over the past five days due to several sticking points, including explicit provisions in Facebook’s contracts that would allow it to blow up any business if new laws were passed, the main reason for that is that failure to follow the code can cost Facebook fines of up to 10 percent of their local revenue
Mr Easton said government proposed legislation “seeks to penalize Facebook for content it hasn’t taken or requested”
“This legislation sets a precedent for the government to decide who makes these news content agreements and how much the party who is already getting value from the free service will be paid”he said
â ???? We will now prioritize investments in other countries as part of our plans to invest in new licensing news programs and experiencesâ ????
Facebook’s stance represents a different approach for search giant Google, which had also threatened to leave Australia. Google has since closed millions of dollars with major Australian publishers to use their content
Google has agreed to pay Nine Entertainment Co, which owns The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, more than $ 30 million in cash annually for the use of its news content. The company has similar agreements with Seven West Media and over Night announced a global contract with News Corp
Zoe Samios is a media and telecommunications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age
Lisa Visentin is a federal political reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age specializing in education and communication
World News – AU – “Inappropriate Conduct”: Media companies slam Facebook’s Australian news restrictions