Facebook on Feb. 17 has banned Australians from posting, sharing, and viewing news content in response to a new proposed media law that seeks to require online platforms to pay news outlets for their content.
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” Facebook Australia and New Zealand Managing Director William Easton wrote in a blog post.
The social media giant said that it was faced with a “stark choice” and “with a heavy heart,” chose to restrict news content and its services in Australia instead of complying with the law.
The ban means Australian Facebook users will not be able to view and share news content from local and international news outlets, including key government pages such as health departments and emergency services.
Facebook users outside of Australia will also be unable to view and share news content from Australian news outlets.
The move immediately sparked alarm and backlash over public access to vital information from trusted sources.
“Facebook needs to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher told ABC News.
Human Rights Watch Australia Director Elaine Pearson described the move as an “alarming and dangerous turn of events” and urged Facebook to immediately lift the restrictions.
“Facebook is acting like an oppressive government, severely restricting and censoring the flow of information to Australians,” Pearson stated in a tweet.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg stated in a tweet that he had a “constructive discussion” with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who “raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code.”
“We agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward,” Frydenberg said.
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