Facebook Blocks the Sharing of News in Australia over Media Law
By – Ashwathy Nair
- Australia was unable to post links to news articles or view FB pages of news outlets.
- The move would be forcing social media giants to pay for news content shared on their sites.
- Facebook is severely restricting & censoring the flow of information to Australians.
On Wednesday, the sharing of news has been blocked by Facebook in Australia over government planning to make it pay media groups for content, but the move interrupted the pages of emergency services while triggering accusations of censorship.
Australians were not able to post links to news articles and were even unable to view the Facebook pages of news outlets from anywhere in the world.
The move came as a reprisal for the proposed law in Canberra that would require social media giants to pay for news content on their platforms that is shared.
Services such as fire, health and meteorological around the country were experiencing problems with their Facebook pages during several serious public emergencies, sparking angry calls for the firm to quickly fix the situation.
A spokesperson from Facebook stated that the official government pages “should not be impacted by announcement of today” and the company “will be reversing any pages that are inadvertently impacted.”
The block, which has also affected charities, indigenous community pages and even own website of Facebook, was described by Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson as an “alarming as well as dangerous turn of events.”
“The flow of data to Australians is severely restricted as well as censored by Facebook,” Pearson said.
“It is unreasonable in the dead of the night to cut off access to vital information for an entire country.”
Media groups as well as the government of Australia have also raised concerns that blocking verified news sources will be allowing misinformation to proliferate.
Paul Fletcher, Minister of Communications, stated that Facebook needs to think “very carefully” about blocking organizations’ pages that employ editorial policies for professional journalists along with fact-checking processes in place.
Digital networks have pushed back hard against Australia’s world-first legislation, believing that it could be creating a global precedent that could demand drastic modifications and hit their business model.
The manager of Facebook for Australia and New Zealand, William Easton stated that “The suggested law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship in the middle of our platform as well as publishers who use it to share news content.”
The hardball response of Facebook was in contrast to Google, which has brokered deals with media groups in recent days, including one with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. revealed earlier in the day.
Facebook’s Easton stated that the firm has claimed to Australian officials that “the value exchange among Fb and publishers runs in favour of the publishers”, and it generates hundreds of millions of dollars of income for the country’s media organisations.
Australia’s competition watchdog has maintained that Google collects $53, Facebook takes $28 and the remainder is shared among others for every $100 spent on online ads, depriving media outlets of the money needed to fund journalism.
The situation is reflected in other parts of the world where technology platforms face increasing pressure to share news media revenue.
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