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Facebook blocks news access in Australia;Talks underway:Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Changes to Sharing and Viewing News on Facebook in Australia

Facebook blocks news access in Australia; Talks underway: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

CANBERRA, Australia — As facebook blocked Australians from sharing news, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said that he had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from #Facebook. 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.

Facebook took drastic action because the House of Representatives passed legislation that would make Facebook and Google pay for Australian journalism, said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who added that he was given no warning before Facebook acted. The legislation needs to be passed by the Senate before it becomes law.

“This morning, I had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from #Facebook. 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”, He tweeted.

Josh Frydenberg@JoshFrydenberg
This morning, I had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from #Facebook. 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.2:27 AM · Feb 18, 2021Twitter for iPhone/181/Retweets//420/Quote Tweets/614

ABC has reported: In a shocking act of retaliation Thursday, Facebook blocked Australians from sharing news, a milestone in the increasingly frantic jockeying between governments, media, and powerful tech companies that one Australian minister called “an assault on a sovereign nation” and abuse of power.Australia’s government condemned the decision, which also prevented some government communications, including messages about emergency services, as well as some commercial pages. The digital platforms fear that what’s happening in Australia will become an expensive precedent that larger countries will follow.”

Facebook has said: In response to Australia’s proposed new Media Bargaining law, Facebook will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content, according to  William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand.

 

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

This discussion has focused on US technology companies and how they benefit from news content on their services. We understand many will ask why the platforms may respond differently. The answer is because our platforms have fundamentally different relationships with the news. Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content. 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.

 

In fact, and as we have made clear to the Australian government for many months, the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favor of the publishers — which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume. Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million.

 

For Facebook, the business gain from the news is minimal. News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their News Feed. Journalism is important to a democratic society, which is why we build dedicated, free tools to support news organisations around the world in innovating their content for online audiences.

 

Over the last three years, we’ve worked with the Australian Government to find a solution that recognizes the realities of how our services work. We’ve long worked toward rules that would encourage innovation and collaboration between digital platforms and news organizations. Unfortunately, this legislation does not do that. Instead, it seeks to penalize Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for.

We were prepared to launch Facebook News in Australia and significantly increase our investments with local publishers, however, we were only prepared to do this with the right rules in place. This legislation sets a precedent where the government decides who enters into these news content agreements, and ultimately, how much the party that already receives value from the free service gets paid. We will now prioritize investments to other countries, as part of our plans to invest in new licensing news programs and experiences.

Others have also raised concern. Independent experts and analysts around the world have consistently outlined problems with the proposed legislation. While the government has made some changes, the proposed law fundamentally fails to understand how our services work.

Unfortunately, this means people and news organizations 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. To do this, we are using a combination of technologies to restrict news content and we will have processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed.

For Australian publishers this means:

  • They are restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages
  • Admins will still be able to access other features from their Facebook Page, including Page insights and Creator Studio
  • We will continue to provide access to all other standard Facebook services, including data tools and CrowdTangle

For international publishers this means:

  • They can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts can’t be viewed or shared by Australian audiences

For our Australian community this means: 

  • They cannot view or share Australian or international news content on Facebook or content from Australian and international news Pages

For our international community this means:

  • They cannot view or share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news Pages

The changes affecting news content will not otherwise change Facebook’s products and services in Australia. We want to assure the millions of Australians using Facebook to connect with friends and family, grow their businesses and join Groups to help support their local communities, that these services will not change.

 

We recognize it’s important to connect people to authoritative information and we will continue to promote dedicated information hubs like the COVID-19 Information Centre, which connects Australians with relevant health information. Our commitment to remove harmful misinformation and provide access to credible and timely information will not change. We remain committed to our third-party fact-checking program with Agence France-Presse and Australian Associated Press and will continue to invest to support their important work.

 

 

Our global commitment to invest in quality news also has not changed. We recognize that news provides a vitally important role in society and democracy, which is why we recently expanded Facebook News to hundreds of publications in the UK.

 

We hope that in the future the Australian government will recognize the value we already provide and work with us to strengthen, rather than limit, our partnerships with publishers.”

END

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