Facebook Blocks News Content From Australia

Clay Curtis
February 21, 2021

Google accounts for 53 percent of Australian online advertising revenue and Facebook 23 percent, according to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has cited the 2019 Christchurch massacre and the distribution of images from the tragedy on social media as an example of how national governments can regulate technology giants.

So now, Facebook and Google must pay news publishers whenever they "use" their content on their platforms - it's like a royalty licensing deal.

Morrison retaliated by saying his government was "happy to listen to them on the technical issues", but remained determined to press ahead.

While Google struck license agreements with publishers including Murdoch-owned News Corp, Facebook has not.

"People are looking at what Australia is doing", he said, noting that he had already discussed the situation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Canada's Justin Trudeau.

The information blackout is projected to have affected millions of Australians who rely on most of these government pages for vital information and warnings on different aspects that enhance public safety.

Various news sites are seen on Facebook on February 18, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.

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"This is a business negotiation between multiple private companies and the Australian government", State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

The company has "tentatively friended us again", he quipped.

The legislation, called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, was approved this week by the lower house of parliament and will be debated beginning Monday by the Senate, which is expected to adopt the law by the end of the week.

Morrison, for his part, underscored that the Australian government's stance is "very clear" and that "people would know the strong support being provided internationally for Australia's position".

The move saw referral traffic from the platform disappear, he said, while "direct traffic to our websites was up in double digits".

"The door is still open to Facebook".

There was public outrage at how the Facebook blockade was bungled, cutting access - at least temporarily - to pandemic, public health and emergency services.

The social media company announced this week that it would curtail Australian publishers' abilities to share or post content on its pages and limit Australian users from viewing or sharing worldwide publishers' links and posts.

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