UK media chief blasts Facebook as a 'schoolyard bully'

Friday, February 19
Ciarán Mather

The chairperson of the News Media Association has hit out at social media giant Facebook for its recent blocking of all content in Australia, referring to its actions as being akin to a 'schoolyard bully.'

Henry Faure Walker said Facebook’s recent ban was 'a classic example of a monopoly power being the schoolyard bully, trying to protect its dominant position with scant regard for the citizens and customers it supposedly serves.'

He added: 'Facebook’s actions in Australia demonstrate precisely why we need jurisdictions across the globe, including the UK, to coordinate to deliver robust regulation to create a true level playing between the tech giants and news publishers.'

A senior executive at the multinational company, Nicola Mendelsohn, has defended Facebook's decision to block access to news media in Australia, adding that the action was taken with 'a heavy heart.'

She said: 'At the heart of this - and the reason why - is we think there's a real misunderstanding about how our platform actually operates and how we work with news publishers.'

'Here's the difference, up until this week news publishers - not just in Australia but around the world - they have the choice if they want to post news on Facebook.'

Ms. Mendelsohn added that the reason they do that is to get their stories out to a wider group of people, thus allowing them to sell more subscriptions as a result, and to further grow their business.

The company's latest dilemma, in a string of seemingly ever-increasing controversies since the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, came about as a form of protest against a proposed law by the Australian government that wants to make tech giants pay media organisations.

Since Wednesday night, Facebook's Australian site, which is used by 18 million Australians, has blocked pages of media companies, including the public broadcaster’s television, radio and non-news pages. 

However, this has also had some questionable effects, as government pages – including warnings of bushfires, and alerts relating to mental health, emergency services and even meteorology – were also blocked, along with community, women’s health and domestic violence support pages.

Many have taken to Twitter to criticise Facebook's actions, with the hashtag #DeleteFacebook gaining traction over the past two days:

Australia's Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has also commented on the controversy, saying that the country 'will not be intimidated' by Facebook.

He further called its decision 'arrogant and disappointing.'

While it may seem that Facebook is untouchable, it should be noted that social media giants, such as Myspace and Bebo, have fallen out of popularity before and faded into obscurity for less.

If Facebook does not address this issue quickly, it could have a marked negative effect on the social media giant.