Cut access to information across Australia
On February 17, Facebook blocked all Australian users from news content, including Government content, on its platform. The move comes as the Australian Parliament plans to pass a new media bill that requires online platforms like Google and Facebook to share profits with media groups in this country.
“The bill misinterprets the relationship between our platform and the publishers. Contrary to the belief of some people, Facebook does not steal news, it is the news agency that wants to share information online. this society “, said Campbell Brown, vice president of international news relations Facebook.
With their somewhat defiant action, Australian news publishers will now be restricted from posting their news on Facebook. Meanwhile, Facebook users in Australia will not be able to see news from international publishers either. Australian users are also unable to view articles shared by Facebook users worldwide. Global users also cannot share stories from Australian publishers.
Not stopping there, Facebook was also criticized as “unscrupulous” when some accounts supported by the Australian government were wiped out by Facebook on the morning of February 18. Among the affected Australian government sites include those giving advice to the public about the Covid-19 pandemic and forest fire-related threats.
Australian Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg said that Facebook blocking Australian users from all news content, including those from the Government on its platform, was “false” and “unnecessary”.
“Facebook was wrong. Facebook’s actions were not necessary. They were overreaching and would damage their own reputation in Australia,” Frydenberg said in a statement on Feb. 18.
Human rights advocates have also voiced criticism of Facebook’s move. Elaine Pearson, head of Human Rights Watch in Australia, said the social media giant is restricting important updates such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Facebook is severely restricting the flow of information to Australians. This is an alarming and dangerous development. Cutting off access to important information of an entire country late at night is an act of conscience”, Ms. Pearson added.
The Facebook side later admitted to its somewhat “overreacting” action, saying that government pages should not have been affected by their latest move. According to Reuters, many of the affected pages were restored on the afternoon of February 18 local time.
According to Bloomberg, the Australian government will soon hold talks with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. This is reportedly an attempt to solve the problem after the US tech giant angered the government of the country for blocking any news of Australians watching and sharing on their platforms.
“We will see if there is a best workaround,” said Minister Frydenberg in an interview on Friday. Frydenberg also added that he would speak with the company’s leadership later in the day after contacting Mark Zuckerberg expressing dissatisfaction with Facebook’s “outrageous” action on Thursday.
Ultimately, Frydenberg stressed that the Australian government will still enforce its controversial law that forces Facebook and Google to share profits with publishers in Australia on news content. The law is expected to be passed by parliament next week.
“The Australian $ 9 billion (US $ 7 billion) online advertising market is completely dominated by Google and Facebook, and we are just trying to create a level playing field.”
“The purpose of the code is to address uneven bargaining between Australia’s media businesses and major online platforms that have clear market power,” said Rod Slims. , The President of Australia’s Consumer Protection Regulatory Authority, explained further.
Commenting on the current situation, conservative party congressman and Commons Communications Committee chairman Julian Knight called Facebook’s latest action in Australia “bullying” and “corporate culture. extremely bad ”.
Australia is angry
In response to Facebook’s unruly action, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the social network’s show of its strength only made clear “the concern of many countries that Big Tech companies are more powerful than themselves. overlays and rules cannot be applied to them “.
“Facebook’s de-friendship with Australia today, which involves cutting off essential medical information services and emergency services, shows them both arrogant and disappointing. I keep in touch. to leaders of other countries on these issues, such actions will only highlight the concerns that more and more countries express about the behavior of BigTech companies, who argue. they are more powerful than governments and that regulations should not apply to them.
Such companies may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run the world. We will not be intimidated by BigTech and will still submit to Congress to vote for our important News Media Bargaining Code, “Prime Minister Morrison wrote on his personal Facebook page.
Sharing of Mr. Morrison immediately received tens of thousands of likes, shares and comments.