Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused Facebook of unfriending Australia for taking unilateral action to block news websites from their platform.
As one of the largest audience aggregation platforms, Facebook has captured a significant share of the Australian advertising market. Facebook yesterday (Thursday, 18 February) blocked access to news services including the Northern Beaches Advocate as part of their dispute over the News Media Bargaining Code currently before Federal Parliament.
In addition to the Northern Beaches Advocate, other local news services for the Northern Beaches have been blocked including The Manly Daily, Manly Observer, The Northern Beaches Review and Pittwater Online News. Some local publications have escaped the ban, but we will avoid naming them in case doing so would risk their continued presence.
Facebook gave no advance warning of the decision and no negotiations were attempted with the Northern Beaches Advocate, which has paid Facebook advertising fees but never sought any payment from Facebook. In addition, when we attempted to post explanatory messages on local Facebook groups via a personal Facebook account, we were blocked from doing so by Facebook and advised our ability to post to local groups had been suspended for two days.
A number of not-for-profit and other unrelated organisations were caught up in Facebook’s blanket news ban yesterday, including Rotary International, 1800RESPECT, environmental and community sporting organisations.Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday criticised Facebook for ‘unfriending Australia’ and cutting off essential information from emergency services organisations.
“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing. I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues.
“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them. They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.
“We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code. Just as we weren’t intimidated when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.
“I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian Government, as Google recently demonstrated in good faith,” said the Prime Minister.Northern Beaches MP Jason Falinski echoed the Prime Minister’s concerns over Facebook’s unilateral behaviour.
“We will not back down in the face of irresponsibility, bullying and intimidation. There are other social media platforms and I encourage Australians to go directly to reliable news sources and show Facebook we are quite happy to live without them if this is how they behave. The people of Australia run this nation, not big tech and this government will fight for that principle,” said Mr Falinski.