news & events

Countering Australia’s news media code legislation, Facebook blocks newsfeed for Australians

In what seems to be a counter against Australian federal government’s move to enforce news media code legislation, Facebook on Thursday blocked Australian from accessing or posting news contents.

According to the different international media, the social media giant said the ban was a direct response to the federal government’s news media code legislation, which is expected to be endorsed by the Australian parliament into a law soon that would require digital platforms including Facebook and Google to pay the news producers whose content they host.

As per Facebook just four percent of people view news in the social media platform, however, for Australians Facebook’s role in news delivery is growing. A study carried out by the University of Canberra last year suggested that 21 percent of Australians use social media as their primary news source, a three percent growth from the previous, while 39 percent of the population uses Facebook to receive news.

The move by Facebook drew widespread criticism including from the Australian government and the different human rights organisations. Taking to Facebook Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister said it was arrogant and disappointing. “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,” he wrote on Facebook. “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.”

He said they will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure their parliament as it votes to 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,” Morrison wrote on Facebook. “I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian Government.”

The Human Rights Watch, the international human rights organisation, too has taken a serious exception to Facebook's decision.

“This is an alarming and dangerous turn of events,” said Human Rights Watch in a statement. “Cutting off access to vital information to an entire country in the dead of the night is unconscionable.”