Aussies could be blocked from sharing local news on Facebook and Insta. Here’s why

Aussies could be blocked from sharing local news on Facebook and Insta. Here's why - We The World Magazine
Image courtesy of Anthony Quintano via Commons

Social media giant Facebook has warned the Australian government that Aussies could be blocked from sharing local news on its platform and Instagram if a landmark law that regulated media is passed.

The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, currently under discussion by the Australian government, if manifested, will force Facebook to pay news and media organizations using its platform to publish shareable digital content.

Facebook responded to the law, in a recent statement, by warning, if the law is passed, Australians will not be able to share news content with their friends and family. But sharing other personal content will be left intact.

“Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” Facebook Australia and New Zealand Managing Director, Will Easton said.

According to Facebook, the drafting committee of the law undermines the dynamics of the internet and “ignores important facts about the value publishers receive from Facebook.”

“This (blocking news sharing) is not our first choice – it is our last. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector,” Easton said.

Australia’s mandatory news code, which seeks to salvage the revenue-deprived news and media industry from further deprivation, has been backed by major Australian media organizations like News Corp Australia, Nine Entertainment, and the Guardian Australia.

Facebook argues it is far from fair when the company is being forced to pay for its own platform used by billions to news organizations who derive millions of traffic from the social media -by far the world’s biggest.

The US-based social media company points out that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s presumption that Facebook generates enough revenue from new organizations posting on its platform is true when reversed.

“News represents a fraction of what people see in their News Feed and is not a significant source of revenue for us,” Facebook says in the statement.

But Australian law-makers maintain, forcing Facebook to pay Aussie publishers to post content on its platform is only fair, the Guardian reports.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said Facebook’s threat was ill-timed and misconceived. “Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses.”

Google’s response

The new law, primarily targeted at Facebook and Google, two of the world’s biggest online advertisers to save the ailing journalism business in a time of the pandemic, forced Google to launch a scare campaign on various social media channels.

Using yellow display pictures with a hazard symbol, Google wrote on Twitter: “A new Gov law would force Google to provide you with dramatically worse products, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, & may affect your ability to use these free services.”

The search engine giant also started popping up notices across its assets, including Chrome browser, Youtube, and others conveying Aussies that their UX with the platform is at risk in the future.

Australian internet users who searched on Google were presented with a message resembling a warning which says: “The Way Aussies Use Google is At Risk.”

Once clicked the user is taken to an open letter written by Google Australia’s managing director, Mel Silva. “A proposed law, the News Media Bargaining Code, would force us to provide you with a dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia,” a part of Google’s open letter reads.

Google’s scare campaign was slammed by an Australian independent thinktank called The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology in an open letter.

“You are using your power as one of the largest companies on earth to threaten us. When we ask you to consider paying a fair amount for the journalism from which you benefit, you threaten to charge us for your search engine,” the letter published on Sydney Morning Herald newspaper read.

Both Facebook and Google have been accused of bullying the Austrian people.