Facebook Blocks News in Australia, PM Calls Ban ‘Arrogant’ 

Australian government slams Facebook’s decision as  ‘wrong’ and ‘heavy handed’.

Tech and Auto
2 min read
Australian government slams Facebook’s decision as  ‘wrong’ and ‘heavy handed’. Image used for representation. 

The Australian government has come down heavily against Facebook’s decision to block news feed as well as information about health and emergency services, describing it as “arrogant” and disappointing.

Facebook took the action after the Australian government proposed laws that would require big tech platforms like Facebook and Google to reach commercial agreements and strike revenue deals with news outlets whose content drives traffic on the platforms.

“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,”Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote on his own Facebook page.

Facebook, in a blog post, defended its action stating the proposes Australian law “fails to recognize is the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers.”

Facebook had said that only news had been scrubbed but came in for criticism when it became clear that along with news pages, several official health pages, emergency safety warning pages, and welfare networks have also been removed by the social media tech giant.

‘No Warning Was Given’

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg called Facebook’s decision ‘unnecessary’ and said it will only damage the networking site’s reputation in the country. ”Facebook was wrong, Facebook's actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia," he said.

Frydenberg alleged that there were no warning given to the government about shutting down of the news by Facebook and Google on its platform. “Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg gave no warning of the news shutdown when we spoke over the weekend,” he added.

Facebook Decision to Block News

Shortly after the News Corp-Google announcement, Facebook said it would no longer carry any news content in Australia because of that same new bargaining code

Facebook's decision stands in stark contrast to one from Google as it immediately stripped all news content from Australia in a dramatic escalation of its campaign.

“Today we made an incredibly difficult decision to restrict the availability of news on Facebook in Australia,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships stated in a company blog on 17 February.

Campbell added, “What the proposed law introduced in Australia fails to recognize is the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers.”

Update: Several government-backed Facebook pages have been restored, however many international media sites remained scrubbed, including outlets like the New York Times, the BBC and News Corp’s Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, Google has declined to comment on Facebook’s decision.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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