Australian Government criticizes Facebook for blocking news
Facebook has blocked Australian citizens from viewing and sharing news on the platform. The company announced that on Wednesday. According to Facebook, they take issue with proposed laws in the country that will make social media and digital giants pay for journalism.
While Australian publishers and journalists can continue to publish news content on Facebook, Australian audiences won’t be able to view or share their links and posts – stated the U.S.-based company. Furthermore, Australian users cannot share both Australian and international news, while international users living outside Australia cannot share Australian news.
William Easton, Facebook regional managing director, stated that the proposed Australian law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between their platform and publishers who use it to share news content. He also added that they had two choices: try to comply with a law that ignores the realities of their relationship or stop allowing news content on their services in the country. They decided to choose the latter.
How did the Australian Government respond to Facebook’s decision?
The Australian Government has severely criticized Facebook’s decision to block users in the country from all news content on the company’s platform, considering that this move already affected access to several government sites.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that Facebook’s move was arrogant and disappointing. At the same time, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg stated on Thursday that it was wrong and unnecessary.
Frydenberg also added that Facebook was wrong and heavy-handed, and the company will damage its reputation in Australia. According to him, the social giant’s actions to unfriend Australia and cut off essential information services on health and emergency services were disappointing.
Furthermore, the company’s decision to block Australians’ access to government sites, which were conveying information about support through the pandemic, emergency services, mental health, the Bureau of Meteorology, was completely unrelated to the media code, which hasn’t even passed through the Senate yet.
Meanwhile, Google decided to choose a different course of action. On Wednesday, the company announced that it has agreed on a revenue-sharing deal with Australian media conglomerate News Corp.
Morrison declared that he would encourage Facebook to work with the Australian Government, as Google has already demonstrated in good faith. The prime minister added that they would not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure their Parliament as it votes on their important News Media Bargaining Code.
Human rights advocates also slammed Facebook’s move. Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch, noted in a statement posted on Twitter that the company is restricting important information such as Covid-19 updates. After that, Facebook agreed to restore government sites.
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