Facebook restricts publishers, users in Australia from sharing news content

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows a 3D-printed Facebook logo in front of a stock chart
FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of a stock chart in this illustration taken November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

February 17, 2021

By Sheila Dang

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc will block news content from being read and shared in its news feed in Australia, drawing a line in the sand against a proposed Australian law that would require it and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay the country’s news publishers for content.

The move, announced in a blog post on Wednesday, represents a divergence in responses among the big tech giants under attack by news publishers, which have blamed the companies for destroying their advertising business.

The Australian federal government has said it plans to put the legislation, which effectively force Google and Facebook to strike deals with media companies or have fees set for them, to a vote in the coming weeks.

Google has also threatened to shut down its search engine in the country to avoid “unworkable” content laws even as it has secured deals with publishers in the U.K., Germany, France, Brazil and Argentina for its Google News Showcase product.

On Wednesday, Google reached a landmark global deal with News Corp, owner of the Wall Street Journal and two-thirds of Australia’s major city newspapers, to develop a subscription platform and share advertising revenue.

Facebook said the proposed legislation “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between tech platforms and publishers, adding that it has helped Australian publishers earn about AU$407 million last year through referrals.

The social media giant, which has long been criticized for allowing misinformation to flourish on its platforms, said Australian users will not be able read or share news content on its sites, and Australian news publishers will be restricted posting or sharing content on Facebook pages.

(Reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru and Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Kenneth Li and Nick Zieminski)