Australia, Facebook, Media faces international criticism after tech giant blocks users from seeing news in Australia
Social media giant facebook has followed through on its threat. The country woke up today to find most australian news pages were just a blank space who runs the world global tech giants or governments. As we speak, a high stake bargaining war between facebook and the australian administration is raging over the future of news and who pays for it. Australia woke up to the news that there was no news on facebook, because the social network blocked people from viewing and sharing it. Facebook was wrong. This is an assault on a sovereign nation, they’re behaving more like north korea or in the words of the country’s pm. Ironically, posting on facebook that their actions were to unfriend australia, cutting off essential health information at the height of the pandemic. The reaction in australia has been one of absolute shock, outrage and anger, because facebook has not just cut off news services. Facebook has cut off government authorities, it’s cut off uh public services, and this is critical when you consider the amount of natural emergencies that happen in australia and also the out of the cobra vaccine. Now facebook would say they were pushed into this decision by the australian government. But do you think it’s irresponsible of them to take this action? Because it’s shown the australian public just how much control they do have over their social news feeds, but it’s also showing the media companies ahead of any bargaining. It may then go on to do just how powerful it is so it’s, a high stakes, game who’s, going to blink first, is not really clear at this stage.
So how did we get here? How long have you got well? In short, while most of us get our news online, the global tech giants are getting rich on advertising money in australia. More than 80 percent of online ad revenue goes to facebook and google, and that share is increasing all the time, while more local and longer standing news. Publishers are shrinking and disappearing. So the australian government say they want to make it a more level playing field and are bringing in a new law which makes big tech companies pay for news content shown on their site. They say to protect public interest journalism, i love people’s faces, and this facebook ad promising to support communities in the pandemic has not aged well. The social network accused today of being more anti social network. After announcing 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, while the social network have blocked professional news sites. Meanwhile, fake news and misinformation on australia’s vaccine rollout continue to spread on facebook. So how has this news gone down down under? I think facebook burning news is terrible, actually um. I do use facebook, it seems to be a catch all they’re, so big and so widely used by australians that they’ll just people will just revolt against it.
While google had threatened to make its search engine unavailable in australia too, but have now agreed to pay rupert murdoch’s news corp, among others, big tech companies have the power to play hardball at the moment and fear. This law could set an expensive precedent around the world or facebook acting a bit more like a totalitarian regime than a big tech here. Taking this action in the middle of a pandemic. Well, facebook apparently are reinstating some of these pages. The government’s not backing down at all – which i think is a mistake. In fact, our prime minister’s just gone to leaders of the world to ask them to support them in this. Rather, antique version of a media code and so it’ll be interesting to see if they do get the backing. I don’t believe that they will um but we’ll see, but both sides are behaving extremely badly. This is not going to end well for australians in general, facebook’s critics think this is a case of silicon valley getting too big for their boots. Their argument, social networks, may have changed the world, it doesn’t mean they run it well. Earlier i spoke to the conservative mp, julian knights, who chairs the commons digital culture and media and sport committee and began by asking him what he thought of facebook’s actions in australia. I think it’s crass, i think it’s bullying and in the middle of a pandemic, to not only just take down news feeds which did which denies the public trusted news sources, but also to take down.
Admittedly, they say by mistake: charity websites, charity pages and government information pages is, in my view, very responsible. What do you think we in britain should be thinking then about how we should legislate around social media? What i’m most encouraged about is the fact that we’re looking from a competition angle, because the competition marcus authority is looking at social media companies and precisely how they work within the economy and society. And i think that is really helpful, because these companies have a huge power across so many different markets and ultimately they all have one thing in common. They make huge amounts of money from other people’s work, whether it be journalism in australia or music streaming in the uk, and one does feel that at the moment the cards are stacked against creatives and those who are putting in the hard yards and in favor of The social media companies so so do you think britain should also be considering laws to make social media companies pay for news content. I do think that there needs to be equitable remuneration for music providers for video sharing for good journalism, which we want to encourage in a world of disinformation and fake news. However, where you get there may not be the australian, but what facebook has done is effectively pick a fight with australia in order to say to the rest of the world. Well, we will frankly do what we want and we will wave a big stick if we don’t agree with the legislation you’re bringing forwards, and that is against all they’ve been saying in the last three years i mean isn’t this modern day.
Warfare really between a private corporation and a an estate. Now, if australia was in conflict with in physical conflict with any other body, other countries in the world, including britain, would be thinking about coming to their aid. Yeah they’ve unfriended a continent effectively and – and you have a really good point there. The fact is that these supernational organizations these conglomerates, these uh huge global players across borders. They are incredibly useful and incredibly enterprising, but they have huge consequences for our society, because the truth matter is that the likes of facebook, if they they browbeat australia, we’re next and other countries, will be next. When we try and bring forward legislation which we think protects society and also ensures that they’re good players in society and that there is a fair and level playing field when it comes to competition, so we’ve got to send a message of support to our friends in Australia that, although they they may feel as if they are the victims of a a a punishment beating almost from a uh, a global brand.