Facebook on Thursday announced the ban because of proposed laws in the country to make digital giants pay for journalism
An illustration image shows a phone screen with the ‘Facebook’ logo and Australian newspapers in Canberra. Credit: Reuters Photo
For months, Facebook and Google have been locked in a stare-down with news publishers and lawmakers in Australia.
At the heart of the fight is whether the tech giants should pay news organisations for the news articles that are shared on their networks. Under a proposed law from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, both Google and Facebook would be required to negotiate with media publishers and compensate them for the content that appears on their sites.
Google unveiled a three-year global agreement with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to pay for the publisher’s news content, one of several such deals it has announced recently where it appears to be effectively capitulating to publishers’ demands.
On the other hand, Facebook took the opposite tack and said it would restrict people and publishers from sharing or viewing news links in Australia, in a move that was effective immediately.
Why Facebook has blocked Australians from accessing news and Google didn’t?
Facebook on Thursday announced the ban was because of the proposed laws in the country to make digital giants pay for journalism.
Facebook said in a blogpost that the law “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between itself and publishers and it faced a stark choice of attempting to comply with it or ban news content. It said its platform generates billions of free referrals to Australian publishers.
Alphabet Inc-owned Google, however, has backed down from a threat to withdraw its main search engine from Australia if the laws go ahead, and has instead struck deals with some of the country’s major commercial publishers. This includes a global deal with News Corp for an unnamed sum in one of the most extensive deals of its kind with Big Tech.
The divergence illustrates the different ways that Facebook and Google approach news. For years, the two internet giants had treated news publishers more or less the same. Both had little incentive to pay news outlets for content and argued that they helped drive a lot of readers to news stories that would otherwise go unnoticed on lightly trafficked websites.
Google’s mission statement has long been to organise the world’s information, an ambition that is not achievable without up-to-the-minute news. For Facebook, the news is not as central. Instead, the company positions itself as a network of users coming together to share photos, political views, internet memes, videos — and, on occasion, news articles.
What does the ban mean for Australians?
The ban will not hamper any Australian accounts, and Australian publishers can also continue to publish news content on Facebook, however, the links and posts can’t be viewed or shared by Australian audiences.
Australian users won’t be able to share Australian or international news on their timeline. International users outside Australia also won’t be able to share Australian news.
(With agency inputs)