[Update: Restored] Facebook locks horns with Australian government by blocking news content on its platform
Facebook is standing up to the Australian government’s controversial media code with a rather surprising and dramatic move. On Wednesday, the social media giant announced that it’s blocking — effective immediately — publishers and people in Australia from sharing and viewing news content on its platform.
Facebook says the proposed media law fails to understand how its platform works, leaving the company no choice but to block news content in the country altogether. The new media law would make both Google and Facebook pay news publishers for their content. This would be done by reaching an agreement between Google/Facebook and news publishers. If both parties couldn’t agree, the price would be set by an arbiter.
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”
Along with local and global news sites, pages belonging to government health agencies and public welfare networks were also blocked from the platform — Facebook later said that was a mistake.
Facebook’s move was in stark contrast to Google’s who, rather than pulling its Search service, sought to appease the Australian government by launching its News Showcase service, which pays participating publishers for distributing content on Google’s news services.
“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” wrote Prime Minister Scott Morrison on his Facebook page.
Facebook argues its response shouldn’t be compared with Google as both platforms are fundamentally different in how they interact with news and publishers.
Facebook says through referrals, it helped Australian publishers earn around AU$407 million last year. But it says for the company, “the business gain from news is minimal,” and thus, it makes no sense to “penalise Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for.”
Update: Facebook restores News Sharing in Australia after agreement
Facebook has struck a deal with the Australian government, and will consequently allow users and publishers in the country to once again share and view links to news articles. The company does not go on to mention the details of this agreement, but New York Times reports that the Australian Government added amendments to the proposed code recently, including a two-month mediation period.