Facebook threatens to ban news in Australia over payment row

(Image credit: Facebook)

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Source: Facebook (Image credit: Source: Facebook)

What you need to know

  • Facebook says it may stop allowing publishers and users from sharing news stories on Facebook in Australia.
  • It's over a new draft law proposed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
  • Facebook says the proposed change will let publishers charge as much as they like for content "with no clear limits."

Facebook has threatened to ban the publishing of news stories on its platform in Australia over proposed new laws by Australian competition authorities.

In a press release the company stated:

Australia is drafting a new regulation that misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect. When crafting this new legislation, the commission overseeing the process ignored important facts, most critically the relationship between the news media and social media and which one benefits most from the other.

Facebook says that if the draft becomes law it "will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram." Facebook says that this move is a last resort, but is "the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia's news and media sector."

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is trying to force Facebook and Google to compensate news outlets when stories are shared on their platforms.

Facebook says that whilst it supports the Australian government's goal of helping struggling outlets, the solution it has proposed is "counterproductive" and is "unprecedented in its reach." Facebook says the law would force it to pay news organizations for content they put on the platform voluntarily, and "at a price that ignores the financial value we bring publishers."

Facebook says news is a fraction of what most users see on its news feed and that it is not a significant source of revenue. The company says it made proposals to invest millions more dollars into outlets, but that these were overlooked:

Instead, we are left with a choice of either removing news entirely or accepting a system that lets publishers charge us for as much content as they want at a price with no clear limits. Unfortunately, no business can operate that way.

Partly in anticipation of the new law, Facebook has updated its Terms of Service to include a provision that will let it remove any user content or restrict user access in order to protect Facebook from legal or regulatory scrutiny and impact.

Stephen Warwick