Facebook has barred Australians from finding or sharing news on its service, a dramatic escalation of a fight with the government that may have wide-ranging consequences both in the country and around the world.
The decision appears to be the most restrictive move Facebook has ever taken against content publishers. The company’s action comes after months of tension with the Australian government, which has proposed legislation that would force tech platforms to pay news publishers for content.
Social media giant Facebook Inc. said it will restore news pages in Australia after reaching an agreement with the government.
Restrictions on news sharing on Facebook’s Australian platform should be lifted “in the coming days,” William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia, said in a statement Tuesday.
In a strong pushback to Australia’s new media bargaining laws, Facebook has decided to a blackout news content from its social networking platform Down Under. Calling it their “last choice”, Facebook said it will “stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram”.
Why did Facebook ban news pages?
Facebook blocked news pages in Australia last week in opposition to a planned law to force the US company and Google to pay Australian publishers for news content.
Australia’s government condemned the decision, which also prevented some government communications, including messages about emergency services, as well as some commercial pages.
The digital platforms fear that what’s happening in Australia will become an expensive precedent that larger countries will follow.
While the dispute between Facebook and the government continues to rage, digital giants — including Facebook — released an industry code on Monday aimed at combatting the spread of misinformation.
The code has been adopted by Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Redbubble, and TikTok and developed by Australian internet and social media industry group DIGI.
It requires signatories to “develop and implement measures which aim to reduce the propagation of and potential exposure of users” to misinformation and disinformation.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority will report to government on the code’s effectiveness by the end of June.
Won’t change law’
The Australian government had earlier said that it will not change proposed laws that would make Google and Facebook ay news outlets for content.
“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.
The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.