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Government Isn't Backing Down After Facebook Blocked All News Content For Aussies

Government Isn't Backing Down After Facebook Blocked All News Content For Aussies

The government has responded to Facebook's shock decision to ban Australian news outlets from sharing content on its platform, indicating they won't be backing down on its media bargaining code.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the government 'will be maintaining the path that we've been following.'

"They're basically saying to Australians: 'If you're looking for reliable news, Facebook is not the place to look for it'," he told 2GB Radio.

"It's certainly something that raises concern... the government will consider this very carefully."

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Meanwhile, Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers condemned the Facebook news restriction today, saying: "This is a mess of the Government's making. It is up to the Government to tell us what has gone on here and what they are doing to fix it."

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg posted to Twitter on Thursday morning saying he's had a 'constructive' discussion with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in wake of the drastic changes.

"He raised a few remaining issues with the Government's news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward," Frydenberg said.

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Despite Facebook saying they would be banning news sites for Australians, several other important pages are now unable to be accessed, including the Bureau of Meteorology, ACT, SA and QLD Health, as well as many fire and emergency service pages.

The social media company has been warring with the Australian government over a proposed law that would force Facebook to pay media companies to host their news on the site.

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Facebook previously threatened it would not bow to the wishes of the Morrison administration and instead would just stop Aussies from being able to read and share news, and have now followed through with that threat.

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In a blog post, Facebook announced it will make changes that will drastically affect the way Aussies consume news.

"The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content.

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"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. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter."

The proposed law would also ask Google to pay for hosting links in its search engine, and Facebook says that's fine for Google, but not for them.

"Our platforms have fundamentally different relationships with news," the blog post said. "Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content.

"Unfortunately, this means people and news organisations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook."

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"On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue."

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Facebook says it made 5.1 billion free referrals to Aussie publishers in 2020 alone, which is worth more than $400 million.

The social media company has criticised the Australian government for not trying to create a more collaborative approach, rather than make them pay.

"We've long worked toward rules that would encourage innovation and collaboration between digital platforms and news organisations," the company said. "Unfortunately this legislation does not do that. Instead it seeks to penalise Facebook for content it didn't take or ask for.

"Unfortunately, this means people and news organisations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook.

"Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted."

People will not be able to view or share Australian or international news content in Australia on Facebook and people overseas won't be able to view or share any content on Facebook that has been published in Australia.

Facebook recognises that many people get important information about the coronavirus pandemic from news publishers on the social media site and they will still be able to get that at the COVID-19 Information Centre.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: News, Australia

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