Facebook shocked many yesterday when it revealed its plans to prevent publishers and users from sharing news on its platforms, should the proposed News Media Bargaining Code be turned into law.
“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,” said Facebook Australia & New Zealand managing director Will Easton.
Facebook is claiming that the code is unworkable and does not believe it should be forced to pay publishers who benefit from extending their reach using social media.
“News organisations in Australia and elsewhere choose to post news on Facebook for this precise reason, and they encourage readers to share news across social platforms to increase readership of their stories,” Easton said.
“This in turn allows them to sell more subscriptions and advertising. Over the first five months of 2020 we sent 2.3 billion clicks from Facebook’s News Feed back to Australian news websites at no charge – additional traffic worth an estimated $200 million AUD to Australian publishers.”
However, not everyone agrees with Facebook’s position.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg led the chorus.
“We won’t be bullied no matter how big the international company is,” he told a media briefing. “No matter how powerful they are. No matter how valuable they are.”
ACCC chair Rod Sims – who has led the calls to regulate Facebook and Google in Australia – described Facebook’s announcement as “ill-timed and misconceived”.
“Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses,” said Sims.
“We note that according to the University of Canberra’s 2020 Digital News Report, 39 per cent of Australians use Facebook for general news, and 49 per cent use Facebook for news about COVID-19.
“As the ACCC and the Government work to finalise the draft legislation, we hope all parties will engage in constructive discussions.”
Similarly, Free TV Australia said Facebook was holding Australians to ransom.
“What we’re seeing today is a global monopoly that will say and do anything to avoid making a fair payment for news content. Australian Facebook users are being held to ransom as a tactic to intimidate the Australian Government into backing down on this issue,” said Free TV Australia CEO Bridget Fair.
“This type of bullying behaviour is exactly the reason that the ACCC concluded that the Mandatory Code was the only reasonable way to even up the bargaining power between Facebook, Google and Australian News Media Businesses.
“Facebook is already awash with fake news and conspiracy theories. Removing trusted Australian news from their platform will only serve to allow misinformation to be further spread unchecked and unchallenged. Unfortunately, Australian consumers will be the collateral damage in Facebook’s campaign to hold onto monopoly profits.”
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