Facebook Blocks News Feeds in Australia, “An Assault on a Sovereign Nation”


CARDINAL NEWS Headlines, News Highlights and Current Events for Thursday, February 18 2021

People have been responding to Facebook blocking its users in Australia from sharing news, in response to a proposed law which would make technology companies pay for news content on their platform. YouTube Tips ⓘ

Facebook has ended news posting and sharing of news content in Australia in response to an Australian government plan to force online sites to pay publishers for content.

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said his government will not be intimidated by Facebook, describing the move to “unfriend Australia” as arrogant and disappointing. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Facebook’s actions were unnecessary and heavy-handed, and Facebook will damage its reputation.

Australian Minister of Health Greg Hunt called Facebook’s action an assault on a sovereign nation, and assault on peoples’ freedom and an utter abuse of big technologies’ market power of control over technology.

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“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing. I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues.

These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them. They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.

We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code. Just as we weren’t intimidated when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.

I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian Government, as Google recently demonstrated in good faith.”

— Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia (on Facebook)

Users found the Facebook pages of all local and global news sites unavailable, and several government health and emergency pages were also blocked. Facebook later asserted this was a mistake and many of these pages are now back online.

“Facebook had blocked some incredibly important sites, including some emergency services and Department of Health sites. I think that wasn’t a good look for Facebook.”

— Dr Susannah Eliott CEO, Australian Science Media Centre

Susannah Eliott said there were two major outcomes from the controversy and action by Facebook: 1) The action highlights that blocking news sites might incidentally block information from news sites and promote misinformation from non-news sites, and 2) some experts see this as an opportunity for people to seriously look at the news they are consuming, and that they start look beyond Facebook for their news.

Eliott said authorities and media experts were extremely concerned about Facebook blocking news sites just before Australia is about to roll out the Coronavirus COVID-19 vaccination program.

Both Google and Facebook have fought the law, saying it unfairly “penalizes” their platforms. However, Google has in recent days signed payment deals with major Australian media outlets.

What is Facebook without news? People and publishers in Australia are now finding out (CNN). YouTube Tips ⓘ

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