After Australia's government this week announced its intent to issue legislative changes known as the "News Media Bargaining Code" by the end of this month, Facebook in retaliation has said it will begin restricting news sharing on its platform in Australia.
It comes a day after the current session of parliament vowed to implement the law by the session's close, which ends on Feb. 25. The code seeks to force major US-based internet companies to fairly pay local Australian publishers for use of their content. Last month Google threatened to remove its search engine from Australia altogether over the legislation, with Facebook backing Google's pressure campaign.
Facebook unleashes the nuclear option in Australia: The company just announced it will block Australian news publishers and Australian users of Facebook from posting, viewing or sharing any news content whatsoever— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) February 17, 2021
NBC describes the new code as aiming "to remove the digital giants' dominant bargaining positions by creating an arbitration panel with the power to make legally binding decisions on price."
"The panel would usually accept either the platform's or the publisher's best offer, and only rarely set a price in between," the report describes.
Facebook issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.
Essentially Aussies will now be barred from posting, sharing or event viewing news content on Facebook whatsoever in a move which Google may soon replicate.
The Facebook statement continues, "Over the last three years we’ve worked with the Australian Government to find a solution that recognizes the realities of how our services work. We’ve long worked toward rules that would encourage innovation and collaboration between digital platforms and news organisations."
"Unfortunately this legislation does not do that. Instead it seeks to penalize Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for," the company added.
It's the biggest escalation yet in the ongoing standoff between Canberra and the big social media and tech companies - particularly Google - which dominate some 81% of all Australian online advertising.
Facebook's full statement can be read here.