Facebook Blocks All News Sharing on Its Platforms in Australia

Region Media responds to Facebook's ban on local news

The law would allow Australian news publications to negotiate for fair payment for their journalist's work, effectively forcing social media companies to pay for news content.

"The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content", Facebook said in a statement.

"It's an algorithmic-driven business, and if you can't write an algo that says what's news and what's not, that's pretty poor", he told Yahoo News Australia. Apparently, it had taken a broad definition of the proposed law, as it didn't provide a clear guidance of the definition of news content.

Responding to the charge, the social media giant said that their "commitment to combat misinformation has not changed", adding that they will continue to direct Australian users to "authoritative health information and notify them of new updates via our Covid-19 information centre".

At the time of writing, Australians can't see domestic or worldwide news, Australian publishers can't share, and global viewers can't post, share or see Australian news.

Australia's lawmakers are in the final throes of passing the "News Media Bargaining Code", legislation that would order Facebook and Google (but not other Big Tech companies that display local content) to pay publishers for their digital material.

A planned Australian law would require Facebook and Google to reach commercial deals with news outlets whose links drive traffic to their platforms, or be subjected to forced arbitration to agree a price.

Facebook's move came hours after Australia's Treasurer tweeted that he had a "constructive discussion" with CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the legislation, which is now being considered in parliament.

Google has also threatened to shut down its search engine in the country to avoid "unworkable" content laws even as it has secured deals with publishers in the U.K., Germany, France, Brazil and Argentina for its Google News Showcase product.

US charges three North Koreans in $1.3 billion hacking spree
The overall amount of money stolen by the hackers is not clear because in some cases the thefts were either halted or reversed. It also unsealed a charge against a Canadian-American for suspected involvement in the laundering of stolen funds.

The bargaining code, which would require social media companies to pay media outlets for using their content, is now making its way through parliament.

Lisa Davies, editor of daily The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, owned by Nine Entertainment Co Ltd, tweeted: "Facebook has exponentially increased the opportunity for misinformation, risky radicalism and conspiracy theories to abound on its platform". He said he was given no warning before Facebook acted.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg strongly criticized Facebook's move.

What does this mean for Australian Facebook users?

The media bargaining code legislation has already been passed by the lower house of the Australian parliament and is expected to receive final approval by the upper chamber, the Senate, next week.

Several Facebook pages that regularly promote misinformation and conspiracy theories were unaffected by the ban and were not deleted. "With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter", stated Facebook.

"Facebook needs to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing", Fletcher said. Facebook isn't being accused of abusing its dominant position, it's merely being asked to give money to publishers when it hosts their content. It is created to give publishers some return on their significant investment in the creation of Australian content. Last year, Facebook generated about 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers, worth an estimated 407 million Australian dollars ($315 million), he said, without providing a basis for the calculation.

"What today's events do confirm for all Australians is the huge market power of these media digital giants", Frydenberg added. An advertisement on News Corp's main Australian news site said, "You don't need Facebook to get your news", alongside a link to the company's smartphone app.

When Facebook kicked Donald Trump, who was still the US President at the time, off its platform Trump's enemies opportunistically defended the right of Facebook to do whatever it wants on the grounds that it's a "private" company.

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