FACEBOOK Standoff with AUSTRALIA on News Content PAYMENT Leads to NEWS BAN for Australian Users

Facebook and its fellow social media platforms were developed and marketed to online users as a hip way to connect with other people over the internet. With these connections, people can share information, and for users that are large companies like game developers and movie studios, social media enables them to reach plenty of potential consumers. But there are always elements of this freedom that governments feel must be curbed. Australia for instance has been pushing legislation that would compel tech platforms from overseas to pay for news content originating from their country. Facebook instead warned of taking drastic measures, which were done on Wednesday.

As IGN tells it, Facebook has opted to block all news feeds, period, from the pages of all its users in Australia starting February 17. This action was done in response to the momentum in the Australian legislature of a bill that, when made into law, would force them and other tech companies to pay Australian news publishers for their content to put on their platforms. FB users in Australia cannot view news items both from local and international sources, nor share them with others.

The Australia and New Zealand managing director for FB, William Easton, says the proposed law does not take into consideration the fact that news content there is willingly shared by publishers, meaning if they choose not to put them of Facebook they should not appear. Fellow internet giant Google could not avoid the appearance of Australian news items because it is a search engine, which would explain the accord it has recently done with News Corp. owned by Australian Rupert Murdoch, wherein they will pay the latter for news originating from Down Under. Originally they had been in step with Facebook back in January for shutting down its Australian services.

When Facebook switched off news feeds for Australian users however, its blanket implementation also led to the blackout of non-news organizations in the country, such as FB pages of emergency services like the Fire & Rescue New South Wales. While some of these pages have since been restored, many more remain affected by Facebook’s aggressive stance against the pending legislation. In return, the national treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Thursday, February 18 declared the social network’s action unnecessary and harmful to its reputation in Australia, a view shared with the Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, and the Prime Minister himself, Scott Morrison.

Image courtesy of Financial Times

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