Yep, you read that right. As a result of the big tech giant’s inability to come to a compromise with the Australian government, Facebook has decided to block all news content from being shared or viewed on its platform in the country.
Ironically, Facebook ended up blocking its own page in Australia.
It wasn’t just the news outlets though…
The platform mistakenly blocked a number of non-news sites as part of the move, including nonprofits and government agencies such as:
- Save the Children Australia,
- The Hobart Women’s Shelter
- The Kids Cancer Project
- The Brisbane City Council
- South Australia Health
- The Bureau of Meteorology.
Facebook said that the other organizations were banned incorrectly and restored some of the pages by Thursday night local times; but still, it’s more than a little disconcerting to think about the magnitude of Facebook’s off switch. And meanwhile, international news sites such as the New York Times, the BBC, and the Wall Street Journal remain blocked.
Why block the news?
The draft calls on tech companies to pay for content, though it does not define what it is worth.
The law would enable news companies to negotiate as a bloc with tech firms for content which appears in their news feeds and search results.
If negotiations fail, the matter could be arbitrated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The proposal seeks to bring a fairer share of ad revenue to publishers. An ACCMA Q and A sheet about the act says:
The code seeks to address the fundamental bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and major digital platforms. This imbalance has resulted in news media businesses accepting less favourable terms for the inclusion of news on digital platform services than they would otherwise agree to. While bargaining power imbalances exist in other areas, the bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and major digital platforms is being addressed as a strong and independent media landscape is essential to a well-functioning democracy.
Stephen Scheeler, the former CEO of Facebook Australia is speaking out against Facebook’s petty response to the proposal, urging residents of the country to delete the app and remarking:
“I’m a proud ex-Facebooker, but over the years I get more and more exasperated. For Facebook and Mark it’s too much about the money, and the power, and not about the good. Imagine if a Chinese company for example had done this, we would be up in arms. All Australians should be quite alarmed by this.”