Mark Zuckerberg unfriends Australians: Facebook blocks access to community groups and pages in Australia to protest news media laws

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook Will Block News Content in Australia

Facebook in Australia blocked access to several online Pages related to health, disability services and emergency organisations in an incompetent display of dissent over the country’s new and proposed news media laws. Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg vs. Tim Cook: Facebook wants its staff to “inflict pain” on Apple over privacy row

What’s wrong with Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform blacked out all media content in Australia and escalated a dispute with the government after it was reported that the new law in the country would require Facebook and even Google to ink commercial deals with publishers whose links, when posted by users drive traffic to their platforms. According to the proposed law, Facebook could be subjected to forced arbitration to agree on a price.

The blackout comes days ahead of the Senate vote on the new law, which is expected to pass with bipartisan support. Meanwhile, the blackout has done more harm than good and has left Facebook with “significant” reputational damage, as the suspension of services threw the community groups off-guard, with no links to news organizations. Also Read: Apple vs. Facebook: Social media giant says privacy changes in iOS 14 may impact growth of small businesses and free Internet

Impact of the Facebook blackout: Health department sites in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory were inaccessible via Facebook for several hours.

  • MS Australia, the not-for-profit organisation that provides advice and support to more than 25,000 Australians living with the neurological disease was also blocked.
  • The Kids Cancer Project, an online charity, was inaccessible, as were anti-domestic violence site 1800 Respect, the Bureau of Meteorology, and household goods retailer Harvey Norman.
  • Facebook Page for a child protection group, Bravehearts, was shut down on Thursday.

Australian PM isn’t happy: Facebook action angered not just the Australias but also Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Morrison issued a tightly worded rebuke and said “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. They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they should run it. Also Read: Google, Facebook agreed to “cooperate and assist” each other against possible antitrust investigations, draft suit says: WSJ

We will not be intimidated by this act of bullying by big tech, seeking to pressure parliament as it votes on our important news media bargaining code.”

Facebook’s PoV: According to Facebook, the proposed law is too broad and fails to offer a clear definition of “news content”. Zuckerberg also fears that the company will have to talk terms with news publishers every time it modifies its news feed or releases new products or services.

  • Facebook also believes that its business is not similar to Google’s. According to Facebook, publishers and users share articles on the Facebook page willingly; they are not sharing it in a search engine involuntarily.

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