Following announcements in late January that Australia would soon pass a law requiring Google and Facebook to pay media outlets for the right to use their content, Facebook blocked all content from news outlets on its platform in Australia as of Feb. 18. The blocking also included government pages and content. Criticism from officials was not long in coming.
Australian government Facebook pages such as: Queensland Australia, South Australia, Department of Health, Emergency Services and the Bureau of Meteorology, have also been blocked as part of the punishment imposed by the social networking giant on Australians.
The block was carried out by Facebook in fulfillment of its threat to restrict Australians from sharing news on its platform in response to a media bargaining code proposed by Australian lawmakers, which would require Facebook and Google to pay local media outlets royalties for using their content.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Facebook’s decision to ban Australian users from viewing news content “arrogant” and warned that he is in regular contact with world leaders who are wrestling with how best to regulate Big Tech.
“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook. “They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it,” he added about BigTech.
Journalist James Findlay posted a message on Twitter with images where it can be seen that major news networks are listed on Facebook with their content completely blocked.
— James Findlay (@james_findlay) February 17, 2021
Josh Frydenberg, the Australian treasurer, upon hearing about what had happened through the news, assured the local media that Facebook had damaged its reputation with its “authoritarian” actions, as reported by the British media The Guardian.
“Facebook is wrong. Facebook’s actions were unnecessary, they were harsh and they will damage its reputation here in Australia,” Frydenberg told reporters Thursday after it transpired he would have a meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“This morning, I had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from #Facebook. He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward.”
This morning, I had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from #Facebook.
He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward.
— Josh Frydenberg (@JoshFrydenberg) February 17, 2021