Facebook Australia row erupts: Australia minister rages 'we will not be intimidated!'

Region Media responds to Facebook's ban on local news

The government on 20 April 2020 requested the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to develop a mandatory code of conduct to address perceived bargaining power imbalances between local news media businesses and digital platforms such as Google and Facebook.

The social media giant was acting in response to tough new regulations that will force it and Google to pay for the news stories shown on their platforms.

By mid-afternoon, many government-backed Facebook pages were restored but several charity pages and all media sites remained dark, including those of global outlets like the New York Times, the BBC, News Corp's Wall Street Journal and Reuters.

"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, wrote in a blog post.

"As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted".

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the USA firm gave no notice it would revoke users' ability to post links to news articles or view the Facebook pages of news outlets from anywhere in the world.

On Thursday Facebook removed posts of Australian news outlets and government pages in retaliation over a proposed media bargaining law, forcing the tech giant to share revenue with outlets, which passed the lower house on 17 February.

Facebook and Google are now close to deals with major Australian media to pay for news. The effects of this move are far-reaching - not only will Australian news sources become unavailable and unsharable on Facebook, but worldwide readers won't be able to see Australian content either. Facebook concluded that the law "seeks to penalize Facebook for content it didn't take or ask for", while an inquiry last month saw Google go so far as to threaten to pull its search engine from the country entirely.

Facebook's rush to censor may even encourage a proportion of its users to remember/discover that there's a whole open Internet outside its walled garden - where they can freely access public information without having to log into Facebook's ad-targeting platform (and be stripped of their privacy) first.

The prime minister of Australia also said today that his government "would not be intimidated".


Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was just as critical, stating Facebook jumped the gun by shutting down access to news pieces with zero notice.

Facebook's own page was down for several hours in Australia before being restored.

Angela Mills Wade, executive director of a lobbying group for media companies in Europe, said that the Australian model could inspire new European Union regulations. Sometimes they'll include recommendations for other related newsletters or services we offer.

Last year, Facebook announced it would pay US news organizations including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today for headlines.

Communications minister Paul Fletcher told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Facebook needs to think about what its decision means for its "reputation and standing".

The Australian Parliament is debating proposed laws that would make the two platforms strike deals to pay for Australian news. He then linked to how publishers can block their content and this way.

Facebook says through referrals, it helped Australian publishers earn around AU$407 million a year ago.

"This decision sees Facebook effectively 'unfriending" Australia'.

"Everything that I have heard from parties, both in the news media business and in terms of digital platforms, is that these are generous deals", Frydenberg said. News outlets have demanded such payments, arguing they should be fairly compensated for their journalism as Google and Facebook capture much of the advertising market. It also means that how you find your brunch recommendations, Netflix picks, new restaurant openings, and events to suss out on the weekend-the things you come to Urban List for-is going to change.

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