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Facebook blocks news content in Australia as it blasts proposed law

Stock Markets Feb 17, 2021 06:15PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows a 3D-printed Facebook logo in front of a stock chart

By Sheila Dang

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) 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 (NASDAQ:GOOGL) 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. (Blog: https://

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 (NASDAQ:NWSA), 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 criticized 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," said a spokesman for Nine, an Australian television network. "This action proves again their monopoly position and unreasonable behaviour."

Starting on Wednesday, 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.

Facebook blocks news content in Australia as it blasts proposed law
 

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Comments (3)
mike jonex
mike jonex Feb 18, 2021 4:25AM ET
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Once again people are not getting it, NEWS agencies post articles/news on Facebook!!! It is their choice to do so, take your animosity and place it where it belongs, at the government. Do not post your info on Facebook and then complain about it. Ridiculous. Wake up. Do not be jealous of a company being successful because you are not or for some other hateful reason. Just look at the facts. Facebook or Google should block Australia. Leave them being an isolated island like they are, physically and from pulling stunts like this, psychologically too.
Mart Bab
Rubberduck1973 Feb 17, 2021 4:47PM ET
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More countries should follow this great example
Unsigned Char
Unsigned Char Feb 17, 2021 4:47PM ET
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The great example people are looking at is Facebook being a crying baby like always and another big tech trying to avoid paying a fair share of the resources they exploit. Google made deals, but if you look at the numbers, it is laughable mere pennies!
Vinay Pal
Vinay Pal Feb 17, 2021 4:47PM ET
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not fare..... free market must always exist
Kenneth nelson
grasshopper Feb 17, 2021 4:33PM ET
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Facebook *******
 
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