Battle over news

Pages dim as Facebook unfriends Australia


Facebook is accused on bullying tactics

Facebook’s battle with Australia’s state governments and publishers over a proposed law requiring it to share revenue from news appeared to be spreading to the UK.

It said it had blocked a wide swathe of Australian state government and other pages, including information on the Covid pandemic. It said the draft law did not clearly define news content.

But Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote on his own Facebook page: “Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing.

“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 social network is facing calls for a boycott. ‘Delete Facebook’, ‘Boycott Zuckerberg’ and ‘Facebook We Need To Talk’ began trending on rival site Twitter. 

Though the dispute was focused on Australia, European publishers along with British and Canadian politicians described it as an attempt to put pressure on governments that might consider similar measures.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault is drafting legislation to make Facebook and Google pay for using media content.

In the UK, content from Sky News and the Daily Telegraph newspaper briefly disappeared from Facebook on Thursday evening as the social network’s action affected Australians’ access to international news content.

Henry Faure Walker of Herald owner Newsquest and chairman of Britain’s News Media Association industry group, said banning news during a global pandemic was “a classic example of a monopoly power being the schoolyard bully, trying to protect its dominant position with scant regard for the citizens and customers it supposedly serves.”

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has struck a deal in which it will receive “significant payments” from Google to provide content for the search engine’s News Showcase account.

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