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Facebook’s problem with Australia

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aritramitra
A first-year law student at National Law University Odisha.

Recently the social media company Facebook decided to remove Australians from the news websites and also the rest of the world from accessing Australian news. It was a sudden move and surprised the Australians. So, why did this happen seems a the most obvious question. The answer can be found in the Government’s passing of ‘The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code’. This code required Facebook and Google to negotiate payment agreements with the news organizations, whose content they allow to share on their platforms. If they do not do so then an arbiter will set a payment agreement for them. This step by the Australian government angered Google and Facebook and initially threatened to remove their services but later on Google decided to make deals with publications and Facebook cut off news sites altogether.

It blocked the Australians from sharing any links related news sites, also blocked news publications from hosting content on their platform. It did not just have a domestic impact, but a global one. Australians were unable to share international news links, international news publications were also blocked in the country.

Many experts seemed to find that there has been no winner in this step of the Australian government. They believed that although Facebook was right in its stand, but the way it went about complete banning of news sites was very abrupt and potentially harmful in nature. By taking this step Facebook has decided to play a huge gamble. It could either force the Australian government to reverse the law based on its market strength or risk its image as the country is about to begin its vaccine rollout.

Many have criticized Facebook by how it has managed to turn the world attention from the flawed legislation to its market power and capacity. But a large group of people have criticized the legislation. Some have stated that Facebook was well within rights to ban news media on its platform, and it is in the best interests of free and open internet.

Some have called out the newspaper organizations to be lazy in failing to adapt to a better business model. The most criticization was targeted towards Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp dominates the Australian media segment. News Corp is supposed to gain the most from the passing of the legislation and had previously used its influence on the government to pass such a law. But the problem here is with small media outlets, and how they are supposed to deal with this, because giants like News Corp have already made multi-million dollar deals with Google. So, this ban by Facebook will be a bigger problem only for the small media businesses.

The main reason behind the enactment of the law is very simple. Tech giants like Google and Facebook have hugely benefitted from the news sites on their platform. Most news organizations rely upon the digital ads for the revenue, and in this case, they are very forced to agree the tech giants’ terms and conditions. These ads help the tech giants earn huge cut of the revenue earned. To counter the dominance and media outlets’ decline this law was recommended by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

This move by Facebook may have ramifications because countries like Canada, France and EU are also making plans to take antitrust actions against tech giants like Facebook.

Although the banning of news outlets put the Australian people in a worry that they might miss out on important information and suffer from various misinformation, some also believed that accessing the news directly from the source will help in ensuring the quality of journalism.

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aritramitra
A first-year law student at National Law University Odisha.

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