Something is happening in Australia that might seem hard to believe. They are fighting with Big Tech and it has interesting consequences. Let’s look at what has been going on and what it might mean for the future of the internet as we know it.
Facebook Bans News in Australia
Facebook has banned Australia from seeing or sharing any news on its platform. They put out a statement saying that the people and the publishers in Australia will no longer be able to share or see any news from local or international outlets. This is the most restrictive move Facebook has ever taken against content publishers.
You might be wondering why Facebook would completely remove a large amount of content that is shared on its site. This comes after months of tension with the Australian government who has proposed legislation that would force tech platforms to pay news publishers for their content.
Facebook put out a statement on a blog post: “The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and the 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 later.”
If you are a Facebook user who is in Australia and you attempt to view any news organization (from Australian publication or other) the content is blocked. If you are a user located in Australia or anywhere else in the world and you try to share or interact with news content from an Australian publication, Facebook will also block that.
What does Australia have to say?
Australians are not happy. Fire and emergency services, domestic violence charities, state health agencies and other organizations are upset about the restrictions saying they are restricting access to vital information.
Australian Prime Minister posted on his own Facebook page, “These actions will not only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behavior of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than the governments and the rules should not apply to them.”
Australia vs Big Tech
The battle between Australia and Big Tech is not new. Last summer, Australia released a draft on new rules that would allow certain media outlets to bargain individually or collectively with Facebook and Google so they could be paid for the news distribution on those websites.
Earlier this year, Google had threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia altogether if the rules become law. They have since decided that they are going to take a different approach. Regardless of how the tech companies react, tension between governments and these companies will continue to rise as more countries consider new laws to manage them.
Facebook said that because the new rules are likely to become law, they plan to take their news features elsewhere. They will “prioritize investments in other countries as part of our plans to invest in new licensing news programs and experiences,” according to William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand.
Google, on the other hand, announced plans to license news. The committed $1 billion over three years to the program that will allow publications in News Showcase.
As for the rest of the world, actions like this will likely not be contained to Australia. We can expect more proposed regulation of all the major Tech companies in the coming years.