Facebook Unfriendly Australia: News pages blacked out for trial of global publishing

Australians woke up empty Facebook news feed Thursday, after the social media giant blocked all media content in a surprising escalation of a dispute with the government, which could be a test for the future of online publishing around the world. The move was quickly criticized by news producers, politicians and human rights advocates, particularly when it became clear that official health pages, emergency safety alerts and social welfare networks had all been cleared. from the site along with the news.

“Facebook Today’s actions to unfriend Australia by disrupting essential health and emergency information services have been as arrogant as they are disappointing,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote on his own. Facebook page, using the vernacular to cut ties with another person on the site. “These actions will only confirm the concerns that a growing number of countries are expressing about Big’s behavior Tech companies that think they are bigger than governments and that the rules shouldn’t apply to them. “

A planned Australian law would require Facebook and Google to reach commercial agreements with news organizations whose links drive traffic to their platforms or to be subject to forced arbitration to agree on a price. Although Australia is a small market, the law is closely watched around the world by regulators and could be a test case for a greater global push to force internet giants to share some of their revenue with internet providers. contents.

Publishers say platforms like Google and Facebook have amassed most of the new revenue with the passage of online media, even as newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations and websites are forced to close newsrooms around the world. Facebook claimed to have blocked media content in Australia because the bill did not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content and said its commitment to combating disinformation has not changed.

“The actions we are taking focus on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content, “a company spokesperson said.” As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have adopted a broad definition to comply with the law as it is written. However, we will cancel any pages that were inadvertently affected, “the spokesperson said.

Facebook’s dramatic move represents a split from Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, have teamed up for years to campaign against the laws. Both had threatened to cancel services in Australia, but Google has instead struck preventive deals with several outlets in recent days. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was the last to announce a deal in which it will receive “significant payments” from Google in exchange for providing content for the search engine’s News Showcase account.

Google declined to comment on the Facebook decision Thursday. Facebook he said in his statement that the law, which is expected to be passed by parliament within days, “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between itself and publishers and has faced a clear-cut choice to comply or ban the news.

The tech giant said the news only accounts for 4% of what people see on its website. But for Australians, Facebook’s role in delivering news is growing. A 2020 University of Canberra study found that 21% of Australians use social media as their primary news source, a 3% increase from the previous year, while 39% of the population uses Facebook to receive news. The same study said 29% of Australia’s news video content is consumed Facebook. BLANK PAGES

Changes made by Facebook deleted pages run by news agencies and removed posts from individual users sharing Australian news, three days before the country begins a nationwide vaccination program to slow the spread of COVID-19. Lisa Davies, editor of The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, owned by Nine Entertainment Co Ltd, tweeted: “Facebook has exponentially increased the opportunity for misinformation, dangerous radicalism and conspiracy theories to abound on its platform. “

The Facebook the pages of Nine and News Corp, which together dominate the country’s subway newspaper market, and the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corp, which serves as a central source of information during natural disasters, were blank. Several major state government accounts were also affected, including those providing advice on the coronavirus pandemic and bushfire threats at the height of the summer season, and dozens of charitable and non-governmental organization accounts.

“Demand for food aid has never been as high as during this pandemic, and one of our main communication tools to help people connect people with #foodrelief information and advice is not available now,” tweeted Brianna. Casey, chief executive of the hunger charity Foodbank. “Hours count when you have nothing to eat. SOLVE THE QUESTION! “

A News Corp spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. An announcement on News Corp’s major Australian news site he said, “You don’t need Facebook to get your news ”, alongside a link to the company’s smartphone app. In the afternoon, many supported by the government Facebook pages have been restored but several charity pages and all media sites remained obscure, including those of international newspapers such as the New York Times, the BBC, News Corp’s Wall Street Journal and Reuters.

The Facebook page itself was inactive for several hours in Australia before being restored. “This is an alarming and dangerous turnaround,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “Stopping access to vital information to an entire country in the middle of the night is inconceivable.”

(This story was not edited by our team of editors and is generated from a feed.)

News Highlights:

  • Facebook claimed to have blocked media content in Australia because the bill did not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content and said its commitment to combating disinformation has not changed. “The actions we are taking focus on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content, “a company spokesperson said.
  • Facebook Unfriendly Australia: News pages blacked out for trial of global publishing