Today is the second day since Facebook has followed through on its threat to ban news on its Australian platform and this includes the Philippine Times/Philtimes FB Page.
However, Facebook also removed posts from certain government pages such as those belonging to the Bureau of Meteorology, state health departments, and fire and rescue services. Even pages of charities and crisis services such as Suicide Prevention Australia, 1800Respect and Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence were affected.
Facebook’s move was a direct response to the federal government’s news media code legislation, which passed the Lower House yesterday. It is expected to become law soon and would require digital platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay news media companies for news content posted or shared on their platforms.
This is probably a final attempt to gain concessions in the legislation. The objective is to scare the Australian Government to back down on its proposed media bargaining laws that would see Facebook and Google pay for journalism.
Using his Facebook account, Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched a scathing attack on the social media giant.“They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they should run it,” Morrison said in his comments on Facebook.
“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Morrison said in his post.
“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.”
World leaders may side with Australia over Facebook’s market power and its “bullying” tactics in a bid to halt a federal law. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already talked with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi last night as an initial step of a plan to mobilise global support to stop Facebook from threatening elected governments.
Facebook’s move will have short-term serious consequences, especially during this pandemic when health information dissemination is critical. However, what Facebook has done could backfire so fiercely and could damage its brand worldwide.
When other governments follow Australia’s lead and enact similar media laws, will Facebook do the same of blocking those countries from sharing news? If this happens, the platform will see a proliferation of fake news and a steady stream of conspiracy theories. When users no longer get quality content, they might abandon the platform.
Facebook’s actions could also push governments into enacting stricter laws that would force digital platforms to pay taxes where they have a presence.
Hopefully, Facebook can come back to its senses. It’s a fact that our publication gets a lot of its website readers from Facebook referrals. However, we also provide factual news and information to Facebook users and we provide this for free. Facts matter and we believe that social media users deserve to get access to reliable and accurate information.
If Google, which earlier threatened to exit Australia over the media code, was able to strike deals with major Australian publishers for the use of their content, certainly Facebook could do a similar move.
While the Australian government’s proposed media bargaining code is complex and imperfect, there is certainly room for improvement with open-minded discussions done behind the scenes.
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