Facebook on Wednesday blocked people in Australia from posting news stories on its website, an escalation of the tussle between the government and the social networking company.
Lately, there have been talks between the Australian government and tech giants like Facebook and Google over a legislation that would force tech platforms to pay news publishers for content.
The Facebook ban blocks posts from any Australian publisher from being seen anywhere in the world, and blocks all users in Australia from seeing any news content, even from non-Australian publishers. The decision appears to be the most restrictive move Facebook has ever taken against content publishers.
Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships, wrote in a blog post, “What the proposed law introduced in Australia fails to recognize is the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers.
“Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook does not steal news content. Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook. I hope in the future, we can include news for people in Australia once again.”
During a hearing in Australia senate, Facebook had threatened to block content in Australia if the bill becomes law.
The news ban has already been met with confusion and criticism in the country. Fire and emergency services, domestic violence charities, state health agencies and other organizations said they were also affected by the restrictions, prompting outrage among those who said Facebook was restricting access to vital information.
The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, through a Facebook post after the restriction on the nation, expressed disappointment in the management of Facebook.
He said tech giants are known for flouting rules by their host nation but insisted that Australia will not be intimidated into submitting to Facebook. He encouraged the tech company to retrace steps and obey the Australian government.
His words, “Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing. I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues.
“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them. They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.
He added that “We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code. Just as we weren’t intimidated when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.”