A 3D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed Australia’s flag in this illustration photo taken February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Facebook abruptly blocked news on its platform in Australia in response to a potential law that would force the social media giant to pay publishers for using their news stories. 

Facebook said the proposed law backed the company into a corner, forcing it to shut down news content. The decision could backfire as it forced the issue onto government regulators’ agendas around the globe. Google, facing the same law, opted to make deals with Australia’s major publishing companies to pay for some content in exchange for avoiding the most stringent parts of the law, walking back its own shutdown threat from a month ago. 

The legislation would require digital platforms to pay media companies or news. The law would also compel technology companies to give notice to news companies of algorithm changes that could affect traffic and to give publishers collective-bargaining power. The bill comes after years of complaints from publishers that Facebook and Google played a major part in the decline of journalism by destroying its business model.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country is willing to work with Facebook as it did with Google, but he noted that Australians would not take kindly to the way Facebook shut down sites.

“This is Australia,” Morrison said. “You want to do business here? You work according to our rules.” 

Lawmakers in the U.K. and Canada criticized Facebook’s decision, saying the tech giant could draw more scrutiny as authorities grow more concerned about its power.  Facebook could clash with at least seven other governments, including the EU, over new regulations and legal disputes. A bipartisan group of U.S. Congress members will introduce a new bill that will enable smaller news organizations to negotiate with big tech platforms. British junior foreign minister James Cleverly said Britain would like to see the situation resolved.

“But, ultimately, we’ve got to ensure that there is an appropriate balance between a country and its ability to make decisions, and its commercial partners,” Cleverly said.

Facebook restricted its own company page as well as pages operated by charitable and government organizations and state health departments, unintended consequences of the decision. Facebook executive Simon Milner, who was involved in the ban decision, apologized for wiping news content at a critical juncture in fighting the pandemic.

As Facebook pulls news in Australia, rural and elderly Australians will be hardest hit” – NiemanLab / Source: Local News Consumers report, University of Canberra

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

It’s Mark Versus Rupert Down Under – Intelligencer – 2/19/2021
A high-stakes news-versus-technology battle is playing out in Australia, where Facebook has blocked all sharing of news in response to a bill mandating that it pay publishers for linking to their work — and Google has taken a very different path.

Facebook’s ban on news is a damning view of Australia’s media industry. – Splice – 2/19/2021
Facebook went for the nuclear option in Australia and stopped local publishers from posting or sharing any content on their Pages. I can’t begin to tell you how f-ed this is — for news consumers, digital publishers, and media as a whole.  But this isn’t Facebook’s fault. Australian lawmakers made a deal with a wily old fox, and it’s taken the media industry back a decade.

Banning news links just days before Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout? Facebook, that’s just dangerous – The Conversation – 2/19/2021
My research is on how poor-quality information and misinformation in online environments, including social media, is presenting serious challenges for public health. When I saw the news about Facebook’s ban this morning, I was struck by the terrible timing. Now, more than ever we need credible, evidence-based information about COVID-19 vaccines circulating on social media.

As Facebook pulls news in Australia, rural and elderly Australians will be hardest hit – Nieman Lab – 2/19/2021
For months, the tech giant has been threatening to restrict Australian news on its service. On the eve of the legislation being passed, it made good on its threat. Our research indicates Facebook’s blocking decision is likely to hurt rural, elderly news consumers the most.

Facebook’s Australia news ban is the best decision it’s ever made – Wired – 2/19/2021
Facebook did the right thing. Its decision to ban all Australian media organisations from its platform has been derided as a brazen act of censorship. It isn’t. For too long Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pretended that his creation is a “town square” – a place for friends and communities to connect freely.

Facebook is my friend. I mean that sincerely, but I need to find some others – The Sydney Morning Herald – 2/19/2021
Confession time: I do love Facebook. […] It’s fair to say I’m not the only one who loves Facebook. Advertisers love it. Perhaps our governments have given it a bit too much love – until now.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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