On Friday, the Australian Prime Minister called on Facebook to lift its blockade of Australian users and return to the negotiating table with news publishers, warning that other countries would follow the example of his government when they got digital giants to pay for journalism.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described Facebook’s action on Thursday to prevent Australians from accessing and sharing news as a threat.
The blockade has escalated a battle with the government over whether powerful technology companies should have to pay news organizations for content.
“The idea of shutting down the types of websites they did yesterday, as a kind of threat – yes, I know how the Australians react to it and I thought it was not a good move on their part,” Morrison told reporters.
“They should go past it quickly, come back to the table and we’ll fix it,” he added.
There was general outrage over how the Facebook blockade was thrown, which at least temporarily reduced to a pandemic, public health and rescue services.
Newspaper headlines included: “No likes for a social network” and “Faceblock.”
An article on how fake news would replace credible journalism in Australian feeds was headlined: “” Fakebook “shows all it cares about is profit, not people.”
Some non-Australian outlets also appeared to be affected, with posts disappearing from Facebook pages belonging to the UK’s Daily Telegraph and Sky News. Both share names with news in Australia.
The blockade was a response to the House of Representatives on Wednesday night, which presented a bill that would make Facebook and Google pay Australian media companies fair compensation for the journalism that the platforms link to. Legislation must be passed by the Senate to become law.
Google has responded by rapidly drafting licensed content agreements with major Australian media companies under its own News Showcase model.
Rupert Murdochs News Corp. has announced a comprehensive agreement with Google covering operations in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. The major Australian media organization Seven West Media also reached a deal earlier this week. Rival Nine Entertainment is reportedly close to its own pact, and the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corp. is in negotiations.
Morrison said he discussed the Facebook dispute with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday. Morrison also discussed Australia’s proposed law with the leaders of Britain, Canada and France.
“There is a great deal of global interest in what Australia is doing,” Morrison said. “That’s why I, like we did with Google, Facebook to engage constructively because they know that what Australia will do here is likely to be followed by many other Western jurisdictions.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the minister responsible for the proposed News Media Bargaining Code, had a telephone conversation with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg after the blockade began on Thursday and again on Friday.
We talked about their remaining problems and agreed that our respective teams would work through them immediately. We’ll talk again over the weekend “, Frydenberg tweeted on Friday.
“I reiterate that Australia is still determined to implement the code,” Frydenberg added.
Frydenberg claims that Facebook had had constructive negotiations with the Australian media about a wage agreement immediately before the surprise blockade.
Facebook said on Thursday that the proposed Australian law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and the publishers who use it.”
Morrison said his government was “happy to listen to them on the technical issues,” but was still determined to pass the law.
“It’s not OK to be unfriendly to Australia because Australia is very friendly,” Morrison said. “We want to be very friendly and it’s time for them to get used to us again.”