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Facebook to block Australians from seeing or posting news content on its platform

With the publication of Australia's federal government news media code, Australians will no longer be allowed to view or share news stories on their Facebook accounts. Facebook will block links to Australian publishers from being posted and Australians will not be able to share or see content published online from news outlets on Facebook, both Australian and international.

In a blog posted by Will Easton, Facebook's managing director for Australia and New Zealand, said “The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” he said in his blog published on 17th February. “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.”

Therefore news sites in Australia will no longer post news on their Facebook pages. Any Australian trying to view or post a news story link, will see a pop-up error window when attempting to post a news story link, with the message saying these cannot be posted in response to the news media code. Currently, only 4% of Facebook's shared content is from news sites, and Facebook was willing to share news, with "the right rules in place".

“We hope that in the future the Australian government will recognise the value we already provide and work with us to strengthen, rather than limit, our partnerships with publishers,” Easton said. Fact checking and Covid-19 information would remain in place to combat any misinformation on the platform, but no Australian would be able to post links from any news sites in response to seeing misinformation on Facebook.

In a radio interview on Australia's 2GB, Paul Fletcher, the Australian government's communication minister said “The decision they’re taking … is [to] remove all authoritative incredible news sources from the platform. And now that is a decision that they’ve announced today. Obviously the Australian government will consider that very carefully but it certainly raises issues about the credibility of information on the platform.”

Google had also threatened to withdraw its search engine from Australia, if the code went ahead, but Google has now signed agreements with Australia's biggest news publishers, including News Corp, Nine Entertainment and Seven West Media, for payment to its News Showcase product. Nine Entertainment reportedly paying $30m a year.

Australians woke up on Thursday morning to find that Facebook pages of all news sites, both local and global, were unavailable. Facebook had made the decision to bloke news content, due to the proposed law which would require tech giants to pay for news content on their platforms.





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