News Facebook restricts Australian audiences, publishers from sharing, viewing news
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Facebook restricts Australian audiences, publishers from sharing, viewing news

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Australians have been restricted from sharing or viewing news articles on Facebook after Parliament’s attempt to make the social media giant pay media organisations for content.

On Thursday morning (Australian time), Facebook announced its decision to block Australian users from viewing or sharing Australian or international news content on its platform.

That includes content from Australian and international news pages.

Australian news publishers are also restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook pages, according to a blog post from William Easton, the managing director of Facebook Australia & New Zealand.

Mr Easton said the move was in reaction to the federal government’s plans to create a news media bargaining code.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” Mr Easton wrote.

“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.”

Mr Easton said admins could still access other features from their Facebook page, including Page insights and Creator Studio.

He said international news publishers would be able to continue publishing news content on Facebook, but links and posts would not be able to be viewed or shared by Australian audiences.

People outside Australia cannot share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news pages.

The policy changes came as the federal government’s proposed media bargain code passed the House on Wednesday night. It will now go to the Senate.

The law will make Facebook, as well as Google, pay for news content on their platforms.

facebook news ban
Facebook took a broad approach to Thursday’s ban – it also took in satirical accounts such as The Betoota Advocate.

In December, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spoke with the Australian heads of Google and Facebook before announcing the proposed laws.

Mr Frydenberg said he hoped it would put digital platforms – which are backed by huge digital advertising dollars – on a more even kilter with traditional news outlets.

On Friday, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the Facebook news ban raised serious questions.

“It certainly raises issues about the credibility of information on the platform,” he said.

He said the federal government would push ahead with its proposed laws.

“We want Google and Facebook to stay in Australia but we have been very clear that if you do business in Australia, you need to comply with the laws passed by the elected parliament of this nation,” he told the ABC.

Mr Frydenberg spoke again to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg again on Thursday morning.

In his blog, Mr Easton also said the social network was prepared to launch Facebook News in Australia to “significantly increase our investments with local publishers”.

“However, we were only prepared to do this with the right rules in place,” he said.

“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.

“We will now prioritise investments to other countries, as part of our plans to invest in new licensing news programs and experiences.”

He explained how news publishers and readers accessed news content differently on Facebook than with Google.

“Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content,” Mr Easton said.

“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.”