Facebook has blocked users in Australia from accessing or sharing news content on the platform. The move is in response to the country’s proposed law to make tech giants pay from news content disseminated on their platforms.
The social media platform announced the news on its blog, saying the law misunderstands the relationship between them and publishers.
“In response to Australia’s proposed new Media Bargaining law, Facebook will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.” The blog post said.
BBC News reports that Australians woke up to find that Facebook pages belonging to local and international media outlets were unavailable. News publications from Australia are also unavailable for users outside the country.
” Unfortunately, this means people and news organizations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook.” the blog post explains.
“Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted. To do this, we are using a combination of technologies to restrict news content and we will have processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed.”
While criticizing the move, the Australian government said it demonstrated the “immense market power of these digital social giants”
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Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg reiterated that the government was committed to passing the law, saying “we would like to see them [Facebook] in Australia. He said Facebook’s move had a “huge community impact” on the estimated 17 million citizens who visit the social media platform.
“But I think their actions today were unnecessary and wrong,” he added.
Tech giants Google and Facebook have fiercely fought the impending law, saying it does not reflect on the internet’s practices and that it was unfairly penalizing them.
Google, however, seems to have given in to the pressure and has in the last few days signed deals with at least three media outlets. Facebook said that the law left them “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,” it said in the blog post.
The company further said that business gain from News was minimal, as opposed to what the Australian government assumes.
“In fact, we have made it clear to the Australian government for many months, the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favor of the publishers — which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume.” The blog continues.
Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million.
“The changes affecting news content will not otherwise change Facebook’s products and services in Australia. We want to assure the millions of Australians using Facebook to connect with friends and family, grow their businesses and join Groups to help support their local communities, that these services will not change.” Facebook clarified.