By Ashley Young-
Facebook’s decision to block all media content in Australia shows why countries around the world need robust regulation to stop tech giants behaving like a “school yard bully”, according to the head of the UK’s news media trade group says.
The decision by the platform sparked further backlash after health authorities, emergency services, and the Bureau of Meteorology also faced bans.
News Media Association chairman Henry Faure Walker(pictured) said Facebook’s ban during a global pandemic was “a classic example of a monopoly power being the school yard bully, trying to protect its dominant position with scant regard for the citizens and customers it supposedly serves.”
“Facebook’s actions in Australia demonstrate precisely why we need jurisdictions across the globe, including the UK, to coordinate to deliver robust regulation to create a truly level playing between the tech giants and news publishers.”
The tech giant is pulling news content from its platform in Australia, over a new law proposal that compels internet firms to pay news organisations.
The decision came after the Australian government drafted a law to require Facebook and Google to reach commercial deals with news outlets whose links drive traffic to their platforms, or be subjected to forced arbitration to agree a price.
The legislation- due to be passed by the Australian parliament within days- prompted Google to procure business deals with several outlets in recent days.
Facebook said the law “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between itself and publishers , adding that it faced a choice of complying or banning news content.
Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, described the social network’s reaction is “staggeringly irresponsible” and was a message to the world about any country that tries to limit its power.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, the MP said: “This is a crass move, a bullying move … I think it’s staggeringly irresponsible – at a time when we are facing a plethora of fake news and disinformation in relation to the Covid vaccine.
“This is not just about Australia. This is Facebook putting a marker down, saying to the world that ‘if you do wish to limit our powers… we can remove what is for many people a utility’.”
When Australians woke up on Thursday morning, their Facebook feed had been dramatically altered.
The social media giant had removed Australian news outlets, and some government pages, in a dramatic move against the nation’s proposed media bargaining code.
The code would force platforms like Facebook to negotiate with media companies to pay for news content.
The decision by the platform became even more divisive after health authorities, emergency services, and the Bureau of Meteorology also faced bans.
The code would create an arbitration panel to set a binding price for news in situations where Google and Facebook do not reach deals with media businesses whose original journalism they link to.
In response, Facebook decided to ban the sharing or viewing of news posts via its platform for users in Australia.
I don’t think they are being a good citizen, not just in Australia, but elsewhere … To pull the plug overnight represents the worst type of corporate culture
Julian Knight, MP
Mr Knight said there needs to be a competition role across the whole social media sector in the UK.
“The problem that I see is that these platforms make enormous sums of money from other peoples’ work, and they aren’t returning any equitable value to them,” he continued.
“I don’t think they [Facebook] are being a good citizen, not just in Australia, but elsewhere … To pull the plug overnight represents the worst type of corporate culture.”
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Henry Faure Walker, chairman of the UK’s news media trade group News Media Association, described Facebook as a “school yard bully”.
“Facebook’s sudden ban on news in Australia during a global pandemic is a classic example of a monopoly power being the school yard bully, trying to protect its dominant position with scant regard for the citizens and customers it supposedly serves,” he said.
“The recent deals struck between Google in Australia and news publishers are a welcome acknowledgement of the principle that independent journalism has to be paid for.
“However, Facebook’s actions in Australia demonstrate precisely why we need jurisdictions across the globe, including the UK, to coordinate to deliver robust regulation to create a truly level playing between the tech giants and news publishers.”