Facebook May Block Australian Users From Sharing News

Facebook is threatening to ban its users in Australia from sharing news on its main app and Instagram after Australia’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or ACCC, came out with a draft News Media Bargaining Code.

“Australia is drafting a new regulation that misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect,” said Will Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand.

He added that Facebook will be left with a choice of either removing news entirely or accepting a system that lets publishers charge it for as much content as they want at a price with no clear limits.

Easton noted that the ACCC is ignoring important facts, most critically the relationship between the news media and social media, while drafting this new legislation.

“Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram. This is not our first choice – it is our last,” Easton added.

However, Facebook confirmed that its products and services in Australia that allow family and friends to connect will not be impacted by this decision.

Meanwhile, the ACCC reacted to this move by Facebook by saying, “Facebook’s threat today to prevent any sharing of news on its services in Australia is ill-timed and misconceived.”

The ACCC added, “The draft media bargaining code aims to ensure Australian news businesses, including independent, community and regional media, can get a seat at the table for fair negotiations with Facebook and Google.”

Facebook’s move comes close on the heels of search giant Google warning its users in Australia that new government regulation would force it to provide customers with a “dramatically worse” Google Search and YouTube.

The social media giant has engaged extensively with the ACCC to aid the Australian Government’s goal of supporting struggling news organisations, particularly local newspapers. Facebook has invested millions of dollars in Australian news businesses and offered to invest millions more.

Easton said “the ACCC presumes that Facebook benefits most in its relationship with publishers, when in fact the reverse is true.”

Facebook has been postponing the introduction of its new Facebook News feature to Australia due to due to the ongoing regulatory stalemate and the release of the draft News Media Bargaining Code.

Facebook News is a feature on the platform exclusively for news, where Facebook pays publishers for their content. Since its launch in the U.S. last year, publisher partners have seen the benefit of additional traffic and new audiences.

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