Facebook withdrawn from Aussie newsfeeds


Facebook Inc will block news content from being read and shared in its
news feed in Australia, drawing a line in the sand against a proposed
Australian law that would require it and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay the
country’s news publishers for content.

The move, announced in a blog post on Wednesday, represents a divergence
in responses among the big tech giants to demands by news publishers, which
have blamed the companies for destroying their advertising business.

Australia Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he had a “constructive
discussion” with Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday,
adding the talks with the company on the proposed media payment law would
continue.

“[Zuckerberg] 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,” Frydenberg said in a tweet.

The Australian federal government has said it plans to put the
legislation, which effectively force Google and Facebook to strike deals with
media companies or have fees set for them, to a vote in the coming weeks.

Google has also threatened to shut down its search engine in the country
to avoid “unworkable” content laws even as it has secured deals with
publishers in the United Kindgom, Germany, France, Brazil and Argentina for its
Google News Showcase product.

On Wednesday, Google reached a landmark global deal with Rupert
Murdoch’s News Corp, owner of the Wall Street Journal and two-thirds of

Australia’s major city newspapers, to develop a subscription platform and share
advertising revenue.

Facebook said the proposed legislation “fundamentally
misunderstands” the relationship between itself and publishers, arguing
that news outlets voluntarily post their article links on Facebook, which
helped Australian publishers earn about AU$407 million in 2020 through
referrals.

Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at
Columbia Journalism School, tweeted on Wednesday that the relationship was not
as voluntary as it seems, and most publishers feel obligated to be on Facebook
due to its dominance.

Facebook, which has long been criticised for allowing misinformation to
flourish on its platforms, now finds itself in a peculiar position of also
blocking the news media that has provided a fact check on false content.

“Nobody benefits from this decision as Facebook will now be a
platform for misinformation to rapidly spread without balance,” a spokesman
for Australian television network Channel Nine said. “This action proves
again their monopoly position and unreasonable behaviour.”

As of this week, Australian users will not be able read or share news
content on Facebook news feeds, and Australian news publishers will be
restricted from posting or sharing content on Facebook pages.



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