Australia moving ahead with news content law despite Facebook blackout

Australian officials say they’re forging ahead with efforts to make tech giants pay for news content even after Facebook imposed a media blackout there.

“We’ll be proceeding with the code,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher told Australia’s ABC News on Thursday. “We want Google and Facebook to stay in Australia, but we’ve been very clear that if you do business in Australia you need to comply with the laws passed by the elected parliament of this nation.”

Fletcher joined other top officials in decrying Facebook’s decision to block Australian users from viewing or sharing news content on the platform.

The stunning move was a response to Australia’s proposed news media bargaining code, which would allow news publishers to negotiate payments from tech giants for the use of their content that appears in search results or news feeds.

Facebook’s blockade appeared aimed at news publishers, but it also blocked content from other entities including a government weather agency and state health department.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook said it restricted so many Australian pages because the draft law did not clearly define news content; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
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“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on his own Facebook page. “We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code.”

Fletcher said officials were continuing to discuss the proposed law with Facebook as the bill headed for a vote in Australia’s Senate after passing in the House of Representatives.

He noted that Google — which had threatened to shut off its search engine in Australia if the proposal becomes law — took the more conciliatory approach of making deals with news publishers including News Corp., which owns The Post.

The proposal is “about having a diverse, well-resourced media sector in Australia. That’s an important part of our democratic process,” Fletcher told ABC. “May not seem so important perhaps in Silicon Valley but it’s very important to the Australian government and the Australian people.”

Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher
Fletcher said officials were continuing to discuss the proposed law with Facebook.
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Facebook said it restricted so many Australian pages because the draft law did not clearly define news content. The company said it would restore access to pages that had mistakenly been taken down.

Facebook also confirmed that CEO Mark Zuckerberg “expressed our disappointment with the proposed law” on a call with Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“We will continue to engage with the government on amendments to the law, with the aim of achieving a stable, fair path for both Facebook and publishers,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

With Post wires

source: nypost.com