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Facebook Blocks Australian Users From Finding or Sharing News on Platform

The move escalates a dispute with the Australian government over whether or not tech giants should be required to pay news publishers for content.

In a surprise move Wednesday, Facebook Inc (Nasdaq: FB - $0. 0.99 (0.506%)  ) blocked its Australian users from sharing news stories on the social media platform, escalating a dispute with the government over whether or not tech giants should be required to pay news publishers for content.

Australian news publishers will no longer be able to share stories on the social media site and international news will not be visible or shareable by local Facebook users. Overseas Facebook users also will not be able to read or share Australian content.

In a blog post, Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton defended the decision, saying it was made in response to a proposed News Media Bargaining law. 

The legislation, expected to be passed by parliament within days, “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between tech companies and publishers, Easton said. 

“It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” he wrote. “With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Australian lawmakers have contended the proposed News Media Bargaining law will help ensure publishers are paid fairly for news stores linked online. Both Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s (Nasdaq: GOOGL - $101.39 0.36 (0.356%)  ) Google had threatened to retaliate.

In response, Australia said it would forego passing the law if the two companies agreed to payment terms with publishers on their own.

A Facebook spokeswoman told Reuters that CEO Mark Zuckerberg had “a constructive call with Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and again expressed our disappointment with the proposed law.” She also said Facebook would continue to engage with the governments on amendments to the law.  

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticized Facebook, saying its “actions to unfriend Australia” were “as arrogant as they were disappointing.” 

“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who is drafting legislation to make platforms pay for content, called Facebook’s move “highly irresponsible,” according to a report.

“It won’t deter us from moving ahead,” Guilbeault said.

Facebook’s announcement Wednesday came hours after Google struck a three-year deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (Nasdaq: NWS - $17.06 0.32 (1.912%)  ) to pay for the use of its journalism in the US, UK and Australia.  


Source: Equities News





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