Facebook has chosen to cut off news content from its site in Australia, the tech firm announced on Wednesday, Feb 17. The action, which has stirred some significant criticisms, has come in response to proposed media legislation in Australia that compels social platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay news publishers for access to share their content.
Facebook is restricting users in Australia from sharing and viewing news on its platform, including Instagram. The tech giant describes it as their “last choice”.
“What the proposed law introduced in Australia fails to recognize is the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships, said in a post.
“Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook does not steal news content,” Brown said. “Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook.”
He also said that he hopes, in the future, the social media giant can incorporate news for residents in Australia once again.
Facebook received criticism from news publishers, politicians and human rights advocates over its decision, mostly because it was also blocking official health pages and emergency sites.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to Facebook’s blocking and cutting off information services on health and emergency services by writing a post on his Facebook page. He said Facebook’s recent actions were “as arrogant as they were disappointing.”
“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behavior of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them,” Morrison stated.
“They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it,” the Australian Prime Minister added.
He also asked Facebook to cooperate with the Australian Government like Google recently did.
Though Google threatened to pull out its search engine in Australia over the new proposed law, the tech giant, now, has started cooperating and inking payment deals with some Australian news outlets.
The new law passed by the lower house of parliament on Wednesday, February 17, is also expected to be passed by the Australian Senate next week.
“We will legislate this code,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said. “We want the digital giants paying traditional news media businesses for generating original journalistic content.”
Frydenberg accused Facebook’s actions as “unnecessary”, “heavy-handed”, and “they will damage its reputation in Australia”.
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said the tech company was “behaving like a North Korean dictator”.
According to Facebook, news only contributes 4% of views on its platform.
However, Reuters reported 39% of the Australian population uses Facebook to obtain news.
The major news outlets in Australia such as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian are followed by millions of people on Facebook. But, under the restriction imposed by Facebook, the news links are no more available for viewing or sharing in Australia.