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Facebooks Fight With The Australian Government Just Took A New Turn!

Mon Feb 22 2021

Facebook has blocked all news being shared on their platform in Australia

In a move described by the Australian Prime Minister as “arrogant and disappointing”, Facebook has blocked all news being shared on its platform, causing traffic to Australian news sites to drop by over 30%.

 

The action, taken last week by Facebook, was in protest to upcoming changes to Australian legislation that would require firms like Google or Facebook to pay Australian publishers for sharing their content across their platforms.

 

The move to block the FB pages of both domestic and international news outlets for Australian users however has caused widespread condemnation amongst Australia’s politicians.

Australian PM, Scott Morrison  described the move as arrogant and disappointing but he’s vowed to press ahead with the new legislation to force Facebook and other platforms to fairly compensate news producers. 

 

Perhaps ironically, the Prime Minister released a statement on his own Facebook page which read…

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Facebook's actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them. There is a lot of world interest in what Australia is doing.

Scott Morrison – Prime Minister, Australia

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He also claimed to have received support from several other countries including the UK, France, India and Canada.

 

The dispute all started when Australian lawmakers introduced suggested legislation which would force the likes of Google and Facebook to pay local publishers for the ‘snippets’ of news they display on their platforms in link shares and in search results.

The part of the law that the tech giants have objected most strongly to is that they would be forced into mandatory arbitration with said local publishers if a deal for the value of the content couldn’t be reached within three months. At that point an arbitrator would get involved and decide on the fairest solution in a legally binding decision.

 

As well as Australian politicians, the news blackout across the country was also criticised by news outlets and human rights advocates, especially after it was discovered that it wasn’t just news that had been blocked.

The blackout has also caused Facebook pages containing official safety warnings, health information and welfare networks to also disappear alongside the news.

*Update: After the law passed yesterday (24/02/2021) Facebook reversed the block and came to a compromise with the Australian Government with amendments making it possible for Google and Facebook to be exempt from parts or all of the code.

Instead, both companies have agreed to pay rather huge sums of money to a few of Australia's biggest publishers despite/outside of the code with the compromises reached being hailed as fair by both.

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We have blocked a wide swathe of media content in Australia because the draft law did not clearly define news content, and the company took a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted. Some pages, including government sites, were taken down by mistake would be restored soon.

Facebook Spokesperson

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Back in January of this year when the news was first announced it looked like Google would be taking a similar stance to Facebook, withdrawing search functionality across the county but it now looks like they entered into several deals with news outlets across Australia, under their new News Showcase model.

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Today's agreement with News Corp covers a wide range of our products such as News Showcase, YouTube, Web Stories, Audio and our ad technology. News Showcase now has partnerships with over 500 publications around the world, demonstrating the value this product can bring to our news partners and readers everywhere and we hope to announce even more partnerships soon.

Don Harrison - President of Global Partnerships, Google

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Mon Feb 22 2021

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