Facebook on Wednesday barred Australians from seeing or sharing news content on Facebook. The move came in response to the Australian government’s proposed media bargaining law that would force Facebook and Google to pay to use content from Australian media companies.
Facebook described its decision to “restrict the availability of news on Facebook in Australia,” as “incredibly difficult.” William Easton, the Managing Director for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, announced the change saying:
The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. 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.
Despite Facebook’s threat of permanently barring news in Australia, the federal government is set to push forward with the proposed law. On Tuesday night, the bill passed through the lower house with bipartisan support. The Senate is expected to follow after debates next week.
The bill, an international first, requires Facebook and Google to negotiate with news media companies to reach commercial deals for content sharing. If negotiations are unsuccessful the parties would be forced into compulsory arbitration.
Facebook criticized the bill saying, “Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook does not steal news content. Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook. From finding new readers to getting new subscribers and driving revenue, news organizations wouldn’t use Facebook if it didn’t help their bottom lines.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Friday that he had support from other countries around the world who are looking to implement similar reform, and invited Facebook to “constructively engage because they know that what Australia will do here is likely to be followed by many other Western jurisdictions.”