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(AUSTRALIA) JUST IN: Citizens are being blocked from accessing news in their Facebook feeds, in a dramatic escalation of the social media giant’s stand-off with the federal government #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Feb.18: Australians waking up this morning found they were blocked from viewing or sharing news content from publishers’ pages, including news organisations like the ABC.

‘Facebook news ban stops Australians from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content’

Posted Yesterday at 7:07pm, updated 2h ago

Silhouette of two people using laptops in front of the Facebook logo.
The move comes a day after Nine and Seven West Media reportedly made multi-million-dollar deals with Google.(Reuters: Dado Ruvic/illustration)

The social media giant said it made the move in response to the government’s proposed media bargaining laws, which would force major tech giants to pay Australian news outlets for their content.

The move also prevents people overseas from sharing Australian content on the social media site.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tweeted that he had held “constructive” talks with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg this morning, while Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Facebook should “think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing”.

Facebook said the proposed Australian law fundamentally misunderstood the relationship between their platform and publishers who use it to share news content.

Go direct to the source

Download the ABC News app for all the latest.

It said it faced the stark choice between attempting to comply with a law, or banning news content on its services in Australia — and “with a heavy heart” it was choosing the latter.

The move came a day after Nine and Seven West Media reportedly made multi-million-dollar deals with Google for use of content.Facebook just restricted access to news in Australia. Here’s what that means for youThe tech giant says news makes up less than 4 per cent of people’s feeds, but you may notice a difference today. Let’s unpack what the changes mean for you.Read more

“We understand many will ask why the platforms may respond differently,” the Facebook statement said. 

“The answer is because our platforms have fundamentally different relationships with news. 

“Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content.”

A Google spokesperson took issue with this claim, highlighting growing division in the technology sector.

“All publishers, along with everyone else, always have a choice about whether their site shows up in Google Search,” they said.

The social media giant said it had explained for months that “the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favour of the publishers — which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume”.

“Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million.”

The company said what it gained from news content was “minimal”, and made up about 4 per cent of what people saw in their newsfeed.

A screenshot of the ABC News page on Facebook showing no posts
Facebook has confirmed the changes have already been applied, however some users report being still able to view and post restricted content.(Supplied)

Google deals continue

The legislation implementing the proposed new media code passed the House of Representatives last night. The Senate is likely to pass it next week.

The code is designed to ensure media companies are paid fairly for the use of their content on search engines and social media platforms.Crushed: Digital giants vs Australian mediaWithin a couple of years the likes of Google and Facebook will devour more than half local ad revenues, leaving only crumbs for traditional media players.Read more

Major media companies Seven West Media, Nine, and News Corp have all reportedly struck content deals with Google this week.

News Corp and Google will develop a subscription platform, share advertising revenue through Google’s ad technology services, build out audio journalism and develop video journalism by YouTube. 

The deal comes after years of public feuding between Mr Murdoch and Google, most recently in Australia, where Google has threatened to shut down its search engine to avoid “unworkable” content laws.

News declined to comment on financial details of the deal, which it said involved “significant payments” by Google.

The Nine and Seven West Media deals are collectively worth $60 million a year, according to media reports.

ABC/Reuters

Missing our news on Facebook?

Facebook unrepentant as Prime Minister dubs emergency services block ‘arrogant’

1m 52s

Facebook’s head of policy in the Asia-Pacific argues it was the government’s proposed law — and not a failure to test their algorithm — that pushed them to “inadvertently” block emergency services pages during bushfire season.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hammered the social media giant over its actions, dubbing them arrogant and disappointing.

Simon Milner, Facebook’s head of public policy for the Asia-Pacific region, told the ABC the capture of non-news pages reflects what Facebook argues is a broad definition of “news” as defined in the law.

“One of the criticisms we had about the law that was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday is that the definition of news is incredibly broad and vague.”

He wouldn’t address whether the mass-blocking had been tested, but he conceded some pages were “inadvertently” caught.

“We are correcting those, many of those have already been fully restored and able to share now, and we’re continuing to act on others that have been notified to us.”

The government has proposed the law to force companies like Google and Facebook to negotiate with media companies.

Go direct to the source

Download the ABC News app for all the latest.

They are designed to ensure these media companies are fairly remunerated for the use of their content on search engines and social media platforms.

Google has signed deals with publishers in response, but Facebook has chosen to follow through on its threat and remove news for Australian users.

Mr Morrison released a statement critical of Facebook’s “actions to unfriend Australia today”, describing them as “as arrogant as they were disappointing”.

“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of big tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”

He added “we will not be intimidated by big tech”.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher disagrees with Facebook’s complaint related to the definition of “news” in the law but has offered to work through the “misunderstanding”.

No apology to small business

Mr Milner appeared in a Senate committee in January promising that removing news from Facebook would not affect small business.

“I can reassure the committee … that this [the potential removal of news] does not mean that Facebook would no longer be available for the millions of people in Australia who love Facebook and for the many small businesses, including in regional Australia, that make use of Facebook.”

Sallie Jones, who owns a Gippsland dairy business, told the ABC her business’s content had been removed.

A woman with a broad-brim hat smiles as the camera surrounded by jersey cattle
Sallie Jones of Gippsland Jersey has reported her business’s posts have disappeared.(Supplied: Catherine Forge, Museums Victoria (MM143571))

“For us not to have Facebook in the first place, which I’m totally freaking out about, but the function of not to be able to share the news links, it’s just so disappointing to us as a company,” she said.

Her page was reinstated in the afternoon.

Mr Milner declined the opportunity to apologise to her, saying he could not comment on individual cases.

Mr Milner also declined to respond to the question of whether he could understand why Australians were upset, instead replying: “I can understand why people are responding to the actions we’re taking today.”

Play Video. Duration: 1 minute 52 seconds
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When asked why Facebook would do something that would risk impairing the flow of emergency information in the midst of bushfire season, Mr Milner said, “we did not want to do this”.

“This is caused by the law that was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday.”

The proposed law is likely to be passed by the Senate next week.

Discussions between Facebook and the government are continuing.

#AceNewsDesk report ……….Published: Feb.18: 2021:

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