Australia and Facebook in talks over sweeping news ban

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Facebook blocks news sites, charities, government pages in Australia

But millions of people around the world rely so heavily on the social media platform to direct their attention to particular news items that when this facility is withdrawn the roof caves in.

Facebook's decision on February 17 to ban Australians from posting and sharing content from both Australian domestic and global news sites has far reaching implications.

"Unfortunately, Facebook's disappearance has resulted in a hit to publishers' traffic numbers: when Facebook traffic dropped off, overall Australian traffic did not shift to other platforms", a Chartbeat spokeswoman said.

"Facebook's sudden ban on news in Australia during a global pandemic is a classic example of a monopoly power being the school yard bully, trying to protect its dominant position with scant regard for the citizens and customers it supposedly serves", he said. "For Facebook and Mark it's too much about the money and the power, and not about the good", Scheeler said. "It's truly liberating." Others suggested migrating to Myspace.

Facebook gave no notice of the news ban but it was not unexpected.

"I think they're nearly using Australia as a test of strength for global democracies as to whether or not they wish to impose restrictions on the way in which they do business", he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticized the company on his own Facebook page.

Adding to the swirl around Facebook, the same week saw recently unsealed court documents alleging that Facebook knowingly allowed inflated "Potential Reach" numbers and failed to act "because the "revenue impact" for Facebook would be 'significant.'" While Facebook has stated that "the allegations are without merit and we will defend itself vigorously", it adds another ill-needed cloud to the company.

The move is in response to the Australian government's News Media Bargaining Code, which targeted Facebook and Google specifically as platforms that benefit from content produced by Australian media sites but don't pay for it. It is yet to be passed by the Upper House.

"It's a massive step forward we have seen this week", Frydenberg said of the Google deals.

"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".

The managing director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, Mr William Easton, said the company imposed the news ban with "a heavy heart".

Facebook is standing up to the Australian government's controversial media code with a rather surprising and dramatic move.

"The value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favour of the publishers", he said in a statement.

The social media giant has responded by imposing a news blackout.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has announced a wide-ranging deal with Google covering operations in the United States and Britain as well as Australia.

Google has signed 500 deals worth around $1 billion over three years with publishers around the world for its new News Showcase service and is in talks with Canadian companies.

While it appears that Facebook has the upper hand, Moos maintains that the social media leader would lose its appeal if it moves away from professional news content.

Benedict Evans, a digital media analyst and former partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, said the argument that Facebook would willingly pay for news article links on its platform if not for its dominance is misguided, and no other website pays publishers to link stories.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he had spoken with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday to find a way out of the showdown, and that negotiations would continue over the weekend.

"We talked through their remaining issues and agreed our respective teams would work through them immediately", Frydenberg said on Twitter.

Australian news organizations could not post stories and people who tried to share existing news stories got notifications saying they were blocked from doing so.

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