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Facebook blocks news in Australia

Nova Safo and Rose Conlon Feb 18, 2021
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A proposed law in Australia would require social media sites, like Facebook, and search engines, like Google, to pay publishers for news content that appears on their sites. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Facebook blocks news in Australia

Nova Safo and Rose Conlon Feb 18, 2021
Heard on:
A proposed law in Australia would require social media sites, like Facebook, and search engines, like Google, to pay publishers for news content that appears on their sites. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Facebook, taking a different tack from rival Google, turned off its news feeds to Australia. It’s a dispute over an impending law that would force online platforms like Facebook and Google, which capture a huge share of online advertising dollars, to pay for news content in Australia.

Facebook says it has now restored some content on Australian feeds that it had inadvertently blocked, including pages run by government services, but it will continue to restrict sharing any news.

Facebook says Australia’s proposed media payments law misunderstands how its services work and forced the company to make what an executive called a “difficult decision.”

The company’s actions overnight drew condemnation from Australian leaders, including the country’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“Facebook was wrong,” he said. “Facebook sanctions were unnecessary. They were heavy-handed. And they will damage its reputation here in Australia.”

Meanwhile, Google has begun striking deals with news publishers, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. It announced a global deal, price tag undisclosed, allowing Google to use premium content from media properties such as The Wall Street Journal.

Jeff Jarvis, a prominent open web advocate and a journalism professor at the City University of New York, said that’s great for big media companies, but not for an open internet.

“The competitive structure for media gets worse when big, powerful media companies and big, powerful tech companies do deals together and leave out the opportunity for fresh startups to come in and compete with them and create this open world,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis says he’s concerned new media startups in the future would instead have to spend millions for what once was free online exposure.

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