Facebook Censors News Content in Australia ‘With a Heavy Heart’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg closeup
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Facebook announced on Wednesday that “with a heavy heart” it will be banning Australian media outlets and censoring users within the country from sharing or viewing news articles on its service. The move comes in response to a potential Australian law that would force Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for their content.

In a statement, the Silicon Valley giant said that it will employ a “combination of technologies” to block news content in the country in response to Australia’s proposed Media Bargaining law, which would require Google and Facebook to compensate publishers for content.

The proposed legislation, which has drawn bipartisan support within Australia, represents one of the most meaningful challenges to the hegemonic dominance of Big Tech on the world stage.

Facebook claimed, however, that 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,” the statement read.

Under the censorship regime, Facebook will bar Australian publishers from sharing or posting “any content” on Facebook pages. International publishers operating within Australia will be allowed to publish content, however, their links will be censored from users within the country.

Australian users will be prevented from viewing or sharing any local or international news content on Facebook news pages, while international users will be blocked from viewing or sharing any Australian news stories.

In a potential warning to other countries from taking similar actions against the tech giant, Facebook said that while it had been considering launching an Australian branch of its Facebook News service, it would only do so if the “right rules” are in place.

“We will now prioritise investments to other countries, as part of our plans to invest in new licensing news programs and experiences,” the statement said.

Google has also threatened to strike back against Australia, warning that it would shut down its search engine within the country should the government persist with the “unworkable” legislation.

Undeterred, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison shot back, saying: “We don’t respond to threats. Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our Parliament. It’s done by our government. And that’s how things work here in Australia.”

Mr Morisson also suggested that Australians could switch their search traffic to Microsoft’s Bing if Google decided to restrict access within the country.

Google has seemingly backed down in its fight with Australia, announcing on Wednesday that it has agreed to pay Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for news content.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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