Facebook blocks Australian News but reinstating health and safety pages following backlash
Facebook on Wednesday blocked Australian users of its platform from reading and sharing local and international news, stepping up its campaign against government plans to force technology giants to pay publishers for their news content. Facebook's justification for including non-news pages was that the proposed law has a broad definition of news.
Australian Governmnet is trying to get technology companies, including Facebook and Google, to pay for the news that is widely shared on their sites, as the advertising revenue that once supported publishers evaporates. The law would force them to strike deals with media companies or have fees set for them.
Google took the opposite approach to Facebook and the company struck deals in recent days with Australia’s major publishing companies, including on Wednesday with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, to pay for some of their news content. The deal came in exchange for avoiding the most stringent parts of a new law in Australia, walking back its own threat from last month to shut down its search engine in the country.
The Facebook ban blocks posts from any Australian publisher from being seen anywhere in the world, and blocks all users in Australia from seeing any news content, even from non-Australian publishers.
The move apparently caught up some government websites that posted information about emergencies, fires and weather. In a statement on Facebook on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed the tech giant for blocking pages that contained vital public information.
“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Morrison said.
“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behavior of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”
Following backlash against the extent of the block on Australian pages, including the Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA and the Bureau of Meteorology, Facebook issued a statement saying government pages "should not" be impacted. Facebook has said it would reinstate vital information pages that were “inadvertently impacted,” local media reported.
The reaction in Australia was severe. “Facebook needs to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing,” Australian Communications Minister Paul Fletcher told the country’s public broadcaster, ABC.
“They’re effectively saying ‘on our platform there will not be any information from organizations that employ paid journalists.’”
Facebook had threatened to block news from its site if the government went ahead with the new law, but the negotiations about the details in the bill are still ongoing, with the government making some tweaks last weekend. Those were not enough to placate Facebook.
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” Facebook said in a blog post announcing the move.
The government continues to hold discussions with Facebook, and it hopes Facebook will overturn its decision, but it remains committed to the laws.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg shared a 30-minute conversation with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg this morning, which he described as "very cordial" and "very constructive".
"We want them to remain in Australia, but we also want them to pay for original content," he said.
News Corp is Australia’s biggest newspaper publisher and has been a driving force in lobbying for the new legislation. In a news release, News Corp called the deal a “historic” success that would lead to “significant” payments to the company.
“For many years, we were accused of tilting at tech windmills,” said News Corp CEO Robert Thomson.
“But what was a solitary campaign, a quixotic quest, has become a movement, and both journalism and society will be enhanced.”
Folowing are aome leading news sights affected by the Ban. Face Book blocked all contents published on these pages