Facebook warns of possible news sharing ban in Australia

Facebook warns of possible ban on news sharing in Australia
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Facebook has warned users that it may be forced to ban sharing news content in Australia due to a new law forcing it to pay publishers for their articles.

Social media giant Facebook says it may stop users in Australia from sharing news content in preparation for a new law that forces it to compensate publishers for articles shared on the platform.

Proposed rules

Australian regulators want tech companies like Facebook and Google to pay for content that were reposted from news outlets.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), it drafted the proposed rules to “level the playing field” between the tech giants and publishers that it says are struggling due to lost advertising revenue.

In response to this proposal, Google warned last month that its search services could be “dramatically worse” as a result.

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Meanwhile, Facebook issued a warning that if the proposed legislation becomes law, it will stop Australians from sharing news on Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram.

The ACCC said Facebook’s threat to block news content sharing was “ill-timed and misconceived”.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said: “The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses.”

Publishers will be hurt more than protected

In a blog post, Facebook’s managing Director for Australia and New Zealand Will Easton explained that the proposed law “misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect”.

Easton explained that the draft legislation would force Facebook to pay for content that publishers voluntarily place on its platform to generate traffic back to their news sites.

He pointed out that  Facebook sent 2.3 billion clicks from its newsfeed back to Australian news websites, worth around A$200 million during the first five months of the year. He also emphasized that blocking of news “is not our first choice – it is our last.”

In the case of a ban, Easton assured that Facebook’s other services that allow family and friends to connect will not be affected.

A Facebook spokesman said it will “provide specific details soon” on how it will enforce the ban.

On the other hand, some business experts side with the Australian regulators that tech firms should pay publishers for the quality news content that they repost.

Michael Wade, a professor at the IMD Business School in Switzerland and Singapore, claimed: “Google, Facebook and others have been getting away with giving it away for free for too long.”

In specific markets, Google and Facebook do pay for some news content and have expressed plans to introduce these initiatives to more countries.

In other news, Facebook announced last week that it is preparing legal action after it was forced by the Thai government to block a group critical of the country’s monarchy. The firm was ordered to block user access to Royalist Marketplace, a group with 1 million members.

According to Facebook, it was compelled by the Thai government to prevent Thailand users from having access to Royalist Marketplace after it had deemed the content of the group “to be illegal.”

Facebook said it was being pressured by the Thai government to restrict some types of political speech in the country, with the government threatening criminal proceedings against its representatives in Thailand.

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