Social media giant fights back against ‘unprecedented’ laws.
By Casey Tonkin
Facebook said Australian users will no longer be able to post news stories on its platforms in protest of proposed media bargaining legislation.
“Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” Managing Director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, Will Easton, said in a statement.
“This is not our first choice – it is our last. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) proposed its code of conduct in late July.
These laws would see Australian news organisations bargain with digital platforms like Facebook and Google to receive remuneration for news content shared on their platforms.
It also seeks to give news companies greater access to the machinations of ranking algorithms and data the platforms harvest about news readers.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government would not back down in its legislation.
“Australia makes laws that advance our national interest,” he said in a statement. “We don’t respond to coercion or heavy handed threats wherever they come from.
“These reforms will help create a more sustainable media landscape and see payment for original content.”
But Easton said the government’s solution was “counterproductive” to its goal
of securing greater competition in the Australian news media landscape.
“The proposed law is unprecedented in its reach and seeks to regulate every aspect of how tech companies do business with news publishers,” Easton said.
Facebook has already slated an update to its terms of service for 1 October.
Under section 3.2 of its new terms of service, Facebook will be able to “remove or restrict access to [users’] content, services or information if we determine that doing so is reasonably necessary to avoid or mitigate adverse legal or regulatory impacts to Facebook”.
The US tech giant is following the lead of its Silicon Valley counterpart, Google, which began an awareness campaign last month threatening users that Google Search was “at risk” from the new laws.
In its Digital Platforms Inquiry, the ACCC slammed Facebook and Google for using unfettered access to business and consumer data to create dominant market positions.
“The ability to determine the content and prominence of material displayed to consumers and the power to set the terms and conditions of access to their service provide Google and Facebook with opportunities to advantage their own related businesses,” the report said.
“The significant amount of data that these platforms collect, including on rival businesses, cannot be easily replicated, providing them with a competitive advantage.”
That competitive advantage tied with a global pandemic has spelled disaster for Australian news businesses with hundreds of journalists axed and newsrooms closing around the country.
Facebook and Google, meanwhile, have led a technology-dominated stock price surge.
Last week, Facebook announced it was offering its News feature to countries outside the US. Australia was a notable absence on its list of prospective countries.
“We aim to launch Facebook News in multiple countries within the next six months to a year and are considering the UK, Germany, France, India and Brazil,” Facebooks said in its announcement.
“In each country, we’ll pay news publishers to ensure their content is available in the new product.”