Facebook blocks news content in Australia in row over new media law

Thursday, February 18
Newsday and Agencies

Facebook has restricted people from viewing and sharing news content in Australia over a proposed law to make digital giants pay media organisations.

Facebook users in Australia cannot see posts from news organisations, which are now showing a blank feed instead.

Users are also unable to share news articles on the social media platform.

Facebook has said that Australia's "proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content".

"It has left us facing a stark choice: 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," said William Easton, Facebook's managing director in Australia and New Zealand.

The Australian government said their new ‘Media Bargaining Law’ is designed to fix a "power imbalance" between the digital platforms and organisations, providing standards and allowing organisations to be paid for content.

It also introduces minimum standards so that news organisations are aware of algorithm changes and user data availability.

Facebook's regional managing director Easton said the legislation "seeks to penalise Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for".

Facebook's move also came amid government talks with both Facebook and Google, who is also against the legislation.

Australia treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Wednesday he had a "constructive discussion" with Zuckerberg.


Government communications minister Paul Fletcher questioned why Facebook would "resist the introduction of blocking requirements under our legislation in relation to abhorrent violent material yet it turns out that you can block thousands of pages of wholly unobjectionable content overnight".

Fletcher said the Australian government was "committed to this code" and that Facebook should come back to a sensible conversation with the government.