Facebook prohibits users in Australia from viewing and sharing news on Facebook

Facebook has decided to prohibit users in Australia from viewing, sharing and commenting on news content of any kind – national or international – on the social network. The change, which went into effect this Wednesday, is in response to an Australian bill to force Google and Facebook to pay for extracts and links from the news they add to their platforms.

Australia will also be banned from the Facebook news platform (a kind of “sub-platform” of the social network for news) that should be introduced in the country. “We will prioritize investments [de programas de notícias] in other countries, ”summarizes the Facebook team in a statement.

Australian lawmakers have been trying for months to define a code to force large online platforms to pay media organizations to use their work. At an early stage, however, only Facebook and Google would be affected and would have to pay for the links and excerpts they share.

The so-called Media Trading Code is intended to enable news organizations in Australia to negotiate fair payment for the work of journalists who appear on the Internet. If the two parties fail to reach an agreement, an amount established by law will be set.

“Legislation [australiana] sets a precedent in which the government decides who does these deals with news content and ultimately how much is paid separately, ”the Facebook team criticized in a statement.

According to the company, Facebook’s profit from news is “minimal”. “It represents less than 4% of the information they see in the feed,” the statement said.

In an email sent to PÚBLICO, Facebook added that the Australian media could continue to post content on Facebook. Links and publications cannot be viewed and shared by the Australian public.

Recently, Google also threatened to pull the search engine out of the country if Australian legislation advances. Facebook preferred to anticipate the answer.

The decision comes at a time when the European Union is considering changing some European digital regulation projects and forcing the tech giants to enter into licensing agreements with media companies.

It’s not the first time Facebook has blocked users from seeing messages on the site’s main page. In October 2017, Facebook removed messages from the feed of six countries – Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Serbia. At that time, the goal was to reduce the spread of fake news in these countries. However, unlike Australia, users could still access messages on a specific tab of the service. The experience was finally broken off after, on the one hand, access to false news did not decrease and, on the other hand, access to important information was more difficult.

The Media Trading Code was discussed in the Australian Parliament on Monday February 15th.