Facebook Threatens to Block News Sharing in Australia in Response to Proposed Law

Bill would require Facebook to pay outlets

In a post to the company’s official blog Monday night, Facebook said it will block all Australian users from sharing news stories if a proposed law that would require Facebook to pay local news outlets is enacted.

The bill, proposed in July and called “Draft Mandatory Code of Conduct Governing Digital Platforms and Media Businesses,” would require that tech giants like Google and Facebook “negotiate in good faith” with outlets to set pay rates. The bill would allow outlets to negotiate as a group or individually.

Unsurprisingly, the tech company opposes the bill and in the blog post said it “reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” if it becomes law.

Among its objections, Facebook specifically said the bill “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.”

That value, according to Facebook, includes “2.3 billion clicks from Facebook’s News Feed back to Australian news websites at no charge – additional traffic worth an estimated $200 million AUD to Australian publishers.” The post did not provide data backing up that claim, but it did say Facebook was 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.”

In the United States, Facebook has been accused of business practices that have actively harmed journalism. Among them, the company is accused of deliberately misrepresenting page views on videos, which led to a wave of publishers “pivoting” to video, only to see steep declines in traffic, causing mass layoffs and often ending the sites themselves.

Facebook settled a lawsuit over those accusations, filed by a consortium of advertisers, in 2019 for $40 million. A separate lawsuit filed earlier this year claims that Facebook employees were aware of the misrepresentation of video views.



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