In a shocking move, Facebook has blocked all news in Australia. The decision is a result of ongoing discussions between the Australian government and tech giants Facebook and Google regarding legislation that would force the tech companies to pay for the content showcased on their platforms.
Facebook has removed all content from Australian publishers from its platform. Users of the social media site are also blocked from sharing links from Australian publications. The move was heavily criticized by Australian legislators and government officials. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the Australian Government would not be intimidated by the tech giant, "Facebook's actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing."
Emergency Services and Public Health Pages Also Blocked
An unintended consequence of Facebook’s change to its platform, was that the pages of emergency service providers and the government’s health-department pages were also blocked. Facebook worked quickly to restore these pages and a spokeswoman confirmed that some sites had been blocked due to error and that the company was working to fix the mistakes.
Unintended or not the move by Facebook sparked widespread backlash with many criticizing the company for cutting off information from health and emergency services in the middle of a global pandemic. Others used the decision to highlight how much power the teach given possessed and why the media code was needed.
Google vs Facebook: Different approaches
A few weeks prior Google threatened to shut down its services in Australia but never acted upon its threat. The company has been inking content sharing deals with some of Australia’s biggest publishers in an effort to show the Australian government that the media code is unnecessary.
Read more about Google’s publishing deals: Google Launches News Showcase in Australia
Australia’s PM encouraged Facebook to follow Google’s lead and work constructively with Australia’s legislators in order to find a constructive way forward.
Public Reaction to Facebook Blocking News in Australia
The public reaction to Facebook’s decision has been mostly negative. With some users raising concerns about Facebook making the decision in the midst of a global health crisis and some going as far as to say they would delete their Facebook accounts entirely.