Facebook Inc will block news content from being read and shared in its news feed in Australia and draw a line in the sand against a proposed Australian law that would require Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay the country’s news publishers for content.
The move, which was announced in a blog post on Wednesday, represents a discrepancy in the responses between the big tech giants to demands from news publishers, which have shielded companies from destroying their advertising business.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he had a “constructive discussion” with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, adding that talks with the company on the proposed media law decision would continue.
“(Zuckerberg) raised some remaining issues with the government’s news media negotiation register and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a way forward,” Frydenberg said in a tweet.
The Australian Federal Government has said it plans to put the legislation, which effectively forces Google and Facebook to do business with media companies or charge them, in the coming weeks.
Google has also threatened to shut down its search engine in the country to avoid “unusable” content laws, even though it has secured deals with publishers in United Kindgom, Germany, France, Brazil and Argentina for its Google News Showcase product.
On Wednesday, Google reached a landmark global agreement with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, owner of the Wall Street Journal and two-thirds of Australia’s major city newspapers, to develop a subscription platform and share advertising revenue.
Facebook said the proposed legislation “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between itself and publishers, claiming that news agencies voluntarily published their article links on Facebook, helping Australian publishers earn about $ 407 million by 2020 through referrals.
Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, tweeted on Wednesday that the relationship was not as voluntary as it seems, and most publishers feel obligated to be on Facebook because of its dominance.
Most publishers feel compelled to be on Facebook. They do not like the asymmetry in the relationship, they disapprove of the requirement to go through an intermediary without access to even negligible information. We have 5 years of non-platform funded research that says this
Facebook, which has long been criticized for allowing misinformation to flourish on its platforms, is now in a strange position to also block news media that have provided fact-checking of fake content.
“No one will benefit from this decision because Facebook will now be a platform for misinformation that can be spread quickly without balance,” said a spokesman for Nine, an Australian television network. “This measure proves once again their monopoly position and unreasonable behavior.”
As of Wednesday, Australian users will not be able to read or share news content on Facebook news feeds, and Australian news publishers will be restricted from publishing or sharing content on Facebook pages.