Facebook said Wednesday that people and publishers in Australia cannot share and view news from local and international outlets. The announcement is a response to proposed legislation in Australia that would force tech platforms to pay news publishers for content.
“What the proposed law introduced in Australia fails to recognize is the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships, wrote in a blog post. “Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook does not steal news content. Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook.”
“I hope in the future, we can include news for people in Australia once again,” Brown added.
During a January hearing in Australia’s senate, Facebook had suggested it could block content in the country if the bill becomes law. Google (GOOG) threatened in the same hearing to shut down its search engine in Australia altogether.
But before Facebook’s announcement Wednesday, Google signaled that it’s headed in the opposite direction — rather than leaving Australia, it appears to be deepening its relationships with publishers there.
Australia fires back
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Thursday blasted Facebook’s actions as harmful to its presence in the country, calling the potential legislation “important” reform.
“Facebook was wrong,” Frydenberg said at a press conference. “Facebook’s actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also criticized the decision, pointing out that it affected “essential information services on health and emergency services” that have been prevented from sharing posts on their pages. Some of these pages have since been restored.
‘Sort this out’: Facebook’s chaotic news ban in Australia blocks pages for fire services, charities and politicians
“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them,” Morrison wrote in a post on his own Facebook page, which did not appear to have been affected by the restrictions. “They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.”