Wednesday, 24 February, 2021


Facebook Bans Australians from News

Facebook users cannot currently share links from news pages in Australia Facebook users cannot currently share links from news pages in Australia
Patty Aguilar | 18 February, 2021, 21:47

Facebook has joined Google in blocking news articles from being shared on its news feed in Australia as a form of protest against the country's proposed mandatory code of conduct for tech platforms.

News of News Corp's deal comes as Australian media organisations faced restrictions to their content appearing across Facebook's platform.

"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".

Facebook said the proposed law "ignores the realities" of its relationship with publishers that use its service to "share news content".

In a statement, Facebook said that, "Actions we're taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and worldwide news content", adding that "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".

Facebook's move has also raised questions about countries' "digital sovereignty" after some emergency response Facebook pages used to alert the public to fires, floods and other disasters were inadvertently hit.

The Australian government has slammed Facebook for a news blackout in the country over pending legislation on content.

The Australian proposal penalizes Facebook "for content it didn't take or ask for", William Easton, managing director for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, said Wednesday in a blog post.

Alphabet-owned Google also opposes the law and has threatened to shut its search engine in Australia if the legislation proceeds in its current form.

Frydenberg said "none of these deals would be happening" if not for proposed legislation to create a so-called News Media Bargaining Code.

Lisa Davies, editor of daily The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, owned by Nine Entertainment Co Ltd, tweeted: "Facebook has exponentially increased the opportunity for misinformation, risky radicalism and conspiracy theories to abound on its platform".

"Facebook's actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing", said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison - in a post on Facebook.

To that end, Austrlia's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the AP last July that the the proposed bill was meant to give the Australian media, "a fair go" on major tech platforms.

Developments in Australia and Europe suggest the financial balance between multibillion-dollar internet companies and news organizations might be shifting.

While Australia's news market is substantially smaller than the USA, tech companies and lawmakers are carefully watching the proposal. The disruption by Facebook's news blackout underscores its grip on information dissemination and might hand the social media giant a major bargaining chip in negotiations.

Originally due to be finalized by November 2020, the code, introduced by competition watchdog Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), was to require the digital ad giants to negotiate in good faith on how to pay news media for use of their content, to advise news media in advance of algorithm changes that would affect content rankings, to favor original source news content in search page results and to share data with media companies. "With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter", stated Facebook.

But communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the government would not back down on its legislative agenda. The fact is that Google and Facebook account for the majority of all global digital advertising spend, much of which would otherwise go straight to the news media.

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

"Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook does not steal news content", she wrote.

"This decision sees Facebook effectively 'unfriending" Australia'. If both parties couldn't agree, the price would be set by an arbiter.

"The Morrison government's position is very clear - we will legislate this code", Frydenberg said, claiming the news shutdown confirmed the company's vast market power. 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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