Facebook Blocks Media Content in Australia as the Fight Over Payments Escalates

By Adriaan Brits Thursday, February 18, 2021

A girl holding a speech bubble with three social media thumbs down.

Facebook, one of the most powerful technology and social media companies in the world, has moved to block Australians from sharing and reading news in their feeds as the dispute over paying for content intensifies.

Facebook Is ‘Arrogant,’ Says Australian PM

The social media company made a surprising move and decided to raise the stakes in the dispute over payments for news content by blocking all media content, including pages of the official health institutions that transmit emergency safety warnings.

Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, accused the social media business giant of being arrogant and wrong.

“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” he wrote on his own Facebook page.

“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.”

Actions of the tech company represent a change in the direction after Google decided to sign preemptive deals with media companies to settle the dispute. In the past, both the social media company and online search business titan spent millions in campaigns against laws that require them to pay publishers for the news they place on their websites.

“If it is not already clear, Facebook is not compatible with democracy. Threatening to bring an entire country to its knees to agree to Facebook’s terms is the ultimate admission of monopoly power,” US Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) said in a tweet.

Australian Parliament is expected to pass a law that would require both businesses to agree to deals with media companies that publish content in the first place. The social media company accused the government that it “fundamentally misunderstands” the concept between the company and news publishers.

According to a study conducted by Roy Morgan, nearly 38% of Australians use social media as their primary news source. In particular, 16.5% of respondents say they use news feeds from Google, Apple, and other companies to read the news.

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

Summary

Facebook has moved to shut down all media content in Australia as the row with countries over paying for content escalates.

About the Author


Headshot of Adriaan Brits

An analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in advanced analytics and media.

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