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18 February 2021

NMA: Facebook Acting Like ‘School Yard Bully’ With Australia News Ban

Facebook’s sudden ban on news in Australia in response to new laws to level the playing field between news publishers and the tech giants is a “classic example of a monopoly power being the school yard bully,” News Media Association chairman Henry Faure Walker said today.

Facebook has faced a deluge of criticism after reports that it had blocked Australians from viewing and sharing news content just hours after the Australian parliament passed new laws - widely supported by the news media industry - to force social media companies to pay media outlets for using their content.

Experts in Australia have warned that the move could have a multitude of drastic unintended consequences such as hindering the coronavirus vaccine rollout and leaving people fleeing domestic violence without vital support, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Responding to news of the ban, Mr Faure Walker said: “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.

“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.”  

Writing in the i this morning, editor Oly Duff said: “Facebook has not thought through the reputational impact of shutting out journalism for an entire country. In a stand-off watched by news media and governments around the world, the tech giant has dug in against Australia’s attempts to compel it and Google to pay media companies for the right to use their content.

“With justification, news media argue that tech firms are eating their breakfast, lunch and supper, undermining the viability of public-interest journalism (as well as frothier content). Facebook and Google insist they reach some audiences who might not otherwise consume journalism.

“In an age of industrialised misinformation, shutting out reporting is a dangerous and regrettable act that could harm a country, its citizens and Facebook’s global standing. Beware the wrong side of history, Mr Zuckerberg.”

Australia’s new regime to regulate the tech giants, including the news media bargaining code, is widely supported by publishers, businesses such as Microsoft, and bodies including the NMA which is urging the UK Government to legislate quickly to give statutory backing to a new regime to address the imbalance between news media and the platforms.