Why has Facebook blocked Australian news?

Facebook has blocked Australia from all its news content, in retaliation to a recently proposed law

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 24, 2018. Viva Tech, a three-year-old event for startups, gathers global technology leaders and entrepreneurs as the French establishment unites behind a push for more tech investment in Paris. Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(Image credit: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Facebook has blocked Australians from viewing or sharing news pages in a controversial response to a recently proposed law. 

The social media powerhouse wiped the country’s access to all its news content earlier today, banning residents from accessing all local and international publications on the platform. 

The radical move is in retaliation to Australia’s plans to introduce new legislation that directly impacts Facebook’s profits. The law, which was first proposed in July, would require tech giants to pay for any content reposted from news outlets. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has condemned the action, describing it as ‘arrogant’ and ‘disappointing.’ He added that the government will not succumb to Facebook’s pressures and will continue to pursue the law, which has already passed through the lower house of parliament. 

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission first introduced the law as a strategy to save the country’s declining publishing industry. 

“It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses; it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection, and a sustainable media landscape,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a statement in July. 

Facebook also unintentionally blocked dozens of non-news pages, including charities, health bodies, and small businesses. A Facebook spokesperson has told CNBC that the company plans to amend this error. 

“As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted. However, we will reverse any pages that are inadvertently impacted,” he said. 

Since its proposal last summer, Facebook, which has been critical of the law, believes that the Australian government is failing to understand the relationship between the publishers and tech companies. 

It now claims it has been forced to make a ‘stark’ choice “to 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.” 

With widespread support across its political parties, the Senate will likely pass the law next week. 

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.