Australians have reacted with outrage after waking up to the bombshell announcement that Facebook has banned the sharing of news articles from its platform.
The move is in response to the proposed Media Bargaining law, which would force tech companies including Facebook and Google to negotiate with news providers to feature their content.
Facebook’s decision mean its 13 million monthly users in Australia can no longer view or share any news on the platform – even from foreign websites.
Federal communications minister Paul Fletcher says the shock move shows Facebook ‘is not the place for reliable news’.
Facebook ‘is not the place for reliable news’, according to federal communications minister Paul Fletcher (pictured)
‘There are already questions about the credibility of information and sources on the Facebook platform,’ he told 2GB breakfast host Ben Fordham.
‘They’re basically saying to Australians: ‘If you’re looking for reliable news, Facebook is not the place to look for it.’
‘It’s certainly something that raises concern… the government will consider this very carefully.’
He insisted Australia won’t back down.
‘We will be proceeding with the code. We want Google and Facebook to stay in Australia but we have been very clear that if you do business in Australia, you need to comply with the laws passed by the elected parliament of this nation,’ Mr Fletcher later told the ABC.
But he didn’t rule out tweaking the code after continuing discussions with Facebook.
‘Let’s allow those discussions to continue and, at the same time, let’s continue with the process of legislating the code,’ he said.
Federal MP Rebekha Sharkie (pictured) told ABC’s News Breakfast she believes Facebook feared it risked becoming ‘irrelevant’
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spent early Thursday morning in ‘constructive discussions’ with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg.
‘He raised a few remaining issues with the government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward,’ the treasurer later wrote.
The ban has stunned ABC News Breakfast co-host Michael Rowland, who tweeted: ‘Facebook to ban users in Australia from viewing or sharing Australian and international news content. Wow!’
He later tweeted that the ABC Facebook feed had gone black.
‘Unbelievable,’ he posted.
Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg has been in early morning discussions with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (pictured)
Federal MP Rebekha Sharkie later told the program Facebook risked becoming ‘irrelevant’.
‘Look, I guess we’re a small market in Australia and I guess Facebook feels that they can flex their muscles,’ she told the program.
‘Ultimately, I think they would have to be very careful that they don’t become irrelevant. We can all only look at so many funny cat videos.
‘People mainly get their news content from Facebook or other services and I think people will perhaps look at other platforms if Facebook aren’t willing to share. ‘
Australians have reacted with anger and disgust to the shock move from Facebook
Overseas journalists have also weighed into the outrage, including Vice News’ David Gilbert
The ban has also impacted on emergency services and government health Facebook platforms.
Other journalists have taken to Twitter to express their anger and shock.
‘Facebook’s move to stop Australians from seeing or sharing news content will only see more disinformation spread on FB, with no ability to post factual news stories to rebut the nonsense. This is very worrying,’ Guardian journalist Josh Taylor told News Breakfast.
Overseas journalists echoed the outrage.
‘In the middle of a pandemic, when misinformation is rife, Facebook has decided to stop people from sharing news in Australia Sure that’ll be fine,’ Vice News’ David Gilbert tweeted.
Facebook pulled the plug after the News Media Bargaining Code passed the House on Wednesday, and looked set to pass the Senate and become law within days.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who ferociously grilled Facebook and Google representatives in a senate inquiry last month slammed the move.
‘Blocking Australian news overnight, while allowing hate speech and dangerous conspiracy theories run rampant.
Facebook has just confirmed it really is just FakeBook,’ she said.
The ban on sharing news content is in response to proposed Media Bargaining law. Pictured is Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg
Australian news outlets have slammed the move as Nine described it as ‘unreasonable behaviour’.
‘It is unfortunate Facebook have taken this position and it will indeed inhibit us from sharing our quality news and information with Australians,’ a spokesperson told 9news.com.au.
‘Nobody benefits from this decision as Facebook will now be a platform for misinformation to rapidly spread without balance. This action proves again their monopoly position and unreasonable behaviour.
‘But today’s statement does not mean Facebook will not have to abide by the Federal Governments proposed code. Value has already been transferred and Facebook has benefited from our content for many years. We should be able to access their monopoly platform and have the right to monetise our content as a result.
‘We have been negotiating with Facebook in good faith and we remain willing to do a deal with them that provides a mutually beneficial outcome and ensures quality information is available to all Australians on their platform.’
The ABC says it will continue its discussions with the social media giant.
‘The ABC’s digital news services will always remain free and accessible to all Australians on the ABC website and via the ABC News app, providing independent and reliable news, information and analysis,’ managing director David Anderson said.
‘Despite key issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic having ongoing effects on all Australians, Facebook has today removed important and credible news and information sources from its Australian platform.
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