Global tech

Facebook and Instagram will block news for Australian users if the government forces it to pay publishers

- September 1, 2020 2 MIN READ
Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook will block news from Australian publishers on its platforms, including Instagram, as well as stopping users from sharing local and international news if the Morrison government’s plans to make it and Google pay publishers for news become law.

Facebook’s ANZ managing director Will Easton says the proposed laws forcing the US tech giants to pay local media companies hundreds of millions of dollars “misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect”.

If the proposed code becomes law “we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram” he said.

The Facebook response follows on from Google launching a public campaign against the laws a fortnight ago, claiming that the way people use search and YouTube is “at risk” as a result.

Easton said the ban on publishing and sharing news “is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic” adding that it will hurt, not help the media sector in the longer term.

Like Google, the Facebook ANZ MD says they share the government’s goal of supporting news organisations, but its solution “is counterproductive to that goal”.

“It would force Facebook to pay news organisations for content that the publishers voluntarily place on our platforms and at a price that ignores the financial value we bring publishers,” he said.

Easton claimed Facebook sent additional traffic to news sites worth an estimated $200 million to local publishers.

“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,” he said.

Easton said they hoped to introduce the US feature Facebook News to Australia, where it pays publishers for their content, but it was overlooked by the ACCC, which is driving the process, and the government.

“Instead, we are left with a choice of either removing news entirely or accepting a system that lets publishers charge us for as much content as they want at a price with no clear limits. Unfortunately, no business can operate that way,” he said.

“Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships, Campbell Brown, said they were “disappointed by the outcome in Australia”.

“We want to see quality journalism thrive online and off,” she said.

“And we hope to once again count Australian news publishers among our partners in the future.”

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