Facebook will prevent Australians from sharing information if a landmark plan to force digital platforms to pay for news content becomes law, the digital giant has warned.
Sharing of personal content between family and friends will not be affected, nor will the sharing of news by Facebook users outside of Australia, the social network said.
The mandatory news code has been backed by all the major media companies, including News Corp Australia, Nine Entertainment and Guardian Australia, to help offset the damage caused by lost ad revenue for Facebook and Google.
“Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia to share local and international information on Facebook and Instagram,” Facebook Australia and New Zealand chief executive said Tuesday. Zealand Will Easton in a blog post.
“It’s not our first choice – it’s the last. But this is the only way to guard against an outcome that defies logic and will undermine the long-term strength of Australia’s news and media industry.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government would continue to enforce the legislation and did not respond to “coercion or severe threats.”
Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said the Facebook threat was unwanted and ill-conceived.
“The draft media bargaining code aims to ensure that Australian news organizations, including independent, community and regional media, can get a seat at the table for fair negotiations with Facebook and Google,” said Sims.
“Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code is simply intended to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook’s and Google’s dealings with Australian news media companies.
“We note that according to the University of Canberra’s Digital News 2020 report, 39% of Australians use Facebook for general information and 49% use Facebook for information about COVID-19.
“As the ACCC and the government work to finalize the bill, we hope all parties engage in constructive discussions.”
Tuesday’s statement marked the company’s first comment since Google also took an aggressive approach to impending legislation, although the search giant stopped before saying it would block search functions in Australia.
Australian Institute Center for Responsible Technology director Peter Lewis has said Facebook is ready to remove trusted journalism from its site, but will allow disinformation and conspiracy theories to flourish.
“As a big advertising company, Facebook would do well to realize that its success is as strong as its user network,” Lewis said.
“Bullying their elected officials seems like a strange way to build long-term trust.
The announcement blinded Australian media after Facebook’s long silence in Australia. Facebook chose to brief US journalists before news of the ban was released, while ignoring Australian media.
In case you didn’t know who the real audience is for Facebook’s lobbying against the news media bargaining code, The New York Times got its new threat to ban Australians from sharing local news removed and international. Not even the local NYT team. https://t.co/QBFre5oXuM
– Ariel Bogle (@arielbogle) September 1, 2020
Sources said the targeting of US media indicated that Facebook’s main concern was that the mandatory code sets an “international precedent.”
Nine Entertainment, editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, said Facebook’s “strange” response demonstrated its use of its monopoly power “while failing to recognize the importance of reliable news content in balancing the fake news that proliferate on their platform ”.
“We are ready to engage and hope to achieve a constructive result with Facebook that will work for both of us and especially for the Australian community,” said a spokesperson for Nine.
They are so afraid of paying for topical content that they are willing to hurt their own business to avoid it.
A third of Australians receive their news from Facebook.
If Facebook pulls the news, they’ll lose all this data collection, all this eyeball time. https://t.co/we0aF2UxU1
– Belinda Barnet (@manjusrii) September 1, 2020
Facebook has said the competition regulator “misunderstands the dynamics of the Internet” and will hurt the media companies it tries to protect with the trading code that would see Google and Facebook share some of the revenue they make. advertising using topical content.
“In drafting this new legislation, the commission overseeing the process ignored important facts, especially the relationship between news media and social media and which benefits the other the most.”
Easton has denied the ACCC’s claim that digital giants make money from news, saying the “reverse is true” in the case of Facebook.
He said that in the first five months of 2020, Facebook returned two billion clicks from Facebook’s news feed to ‘toll-free’ Australian news sites, traffic worth an estimated 200 million dollars to Australian publishers.
In the inflammatory message, Facebook called the ACCC-designed system one that allowed publishers to “charge us for as much content as they wanted at a price with no clear limits.” The statement had some backing, including from billionaire tech mogul Mike Cannon-Brookes, who said the media would be the losers, not Facebook.
The only logical move for Facebook. The news doesn’t do much, I guess. UGC is their business. No shortage of content. Media organizations will generally lose out. https://t.co/Zvt7sWXE9P
– Mike Cannon-Brookes 👨🏼💻🧢 (@mcannonbrookes) 1 septembre 2020
In a separate article, vice president of global partnerships for Facebook, Campbell Brown, said the company’s commitment to journalism has not changed and listed the projects Facebook has launched around the world.
“And we hope to count Australian news editors as a partner again in the future,” said Brown.
Brown said the company was “disappointed” with the outcome in Australia, which failed to produce regulations that helped relationships between tech companies and news agencies, but hampered it.
Facebook told users it was updating its mandate next month, apparently to include a ban on Australians sharing information. The new line in the terms is: “We may also remove or restrict access to your content, services or information if we believe this is reasonably necessary to avoid or mitigate negative legal or regulatory impacts on Facebook”.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Facebook’s statement was a reminder that tech giants used to make tough threats and the government remained committed to the mandatory code.
The commercial television lobby group accused Facebook of intimidation.
“What we are seeing today is a global monopoly that will say and do anything to avoid paying a fair price for news content,” said Bridget Fair, Managing Director of Free TV Australia: “Australian Facebook users are required to ransom as a bullying tactic. the Australian government to back down on this issue.