American social media giant Facebook has announced that they will restrict the sharing, publishing, or viewing of news on their platform in Australia in response to the nation’s proposed News Media Bargaining law.
The announcement was made by Will Easton, who serves as the Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand. Easton stated that the law is flawed, that Facebook serves a different function from Google, and that the social media company would be unable to abide by it.
“The 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 Easton.
“This discussion has focused on US technology companies and how they benefit from news content on their services. We understand many will ask why the platforms may respond differently. The answer is because our platforms have fundamentally different relationships with news.”
“Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content. On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue,” added Easton.
The tech giant is also claiming that the benefit that Facebook receives from running news on their platform is negligible.
“Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million. For Facebook, the business gain from news is minimal,” said Easton.
“News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their News Feed. Journalism is important to a democratic society, which is why we build dedicated, free tools to support news organisations around the world in innovating their content for online audiences.”
Easton stated that Facebook has been working for years with the Australian government to find a solution.
“We’ve long worked toward rules that would encourage innovation and collaboration between digital platforms and news organisations. Unfortunately this legislation does not do that. Instead it seeks to penalise Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for,” he added.
According to the announcement, Facebook was prepared to roll out Facebook News in Australia and increase investment with Australian publishers.
“This legislation sets a precedent where the government decides who enters into these news content agreements, and ultimately, how much the party that already receives value from the free service gets paid,” said Easton.
Instead, he added, “We will now prioritise investments to other countries, as part of our plans to invest in new licensing news programs and experiences.”
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