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Facebook fights furiously to fend off fees

YESTERDAY in Australia Facebook followed through on its threat to block users from seeing news sites. This is in response to the Bill currently in Australia's Parliament to establish a Media Bargaining Code, ensuring that newspapers get paid for the use Facebook and other internet corporations make of the copyright work they publish.

Facebook bans itself

Facebook bans itself in Australia

The stern move was immediately described correctly as "an aggressive lobbying effort" and "an attempt to bully the Australian government into not passing the law". Amusingly, as a result it banned its own Facebook page. Less amusingly, it cut off people who don't know how to navigate the World-Wide Web outside Facebook from emergency information.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Australia's Media Entertainment Arts Alliance (MEAA) have already condemned the company's threats. Now they've had to do so again, denouncing "a move that gravely undermines press freedom in the country". The MEAA said the decision was the "desperate act of a company with too much power that thinks it is beyond the reach of any government".

The IFJ said: "Digital platforms like Facebook have a responsibility to support and protect freedom of expression and the media as a fundamental pillar of democracy. It is incredibly concerning for a platform like Facebook to remove reliable, accurate news sources, especially in the midst of a global pandemic where access to public information is vital."

As the Freelance observed in September, "it's almost as if it's a point of principle that no law should apply to them." In the UK, Facebook has pre-emptively offered payment to newspaper publishers. The ones they choose, that is.

23 February 2021

Facebook has agreed to restore Australian news on its platform "in the coming days" following an agreement with the government on amendments to a proposed law, the Financial Times reports. The Guardian describes the changes as meaning that the Australian government "may not apply the code to Facebook if the company can demonstrate it has signed enough deals with media outlets to pay them for content" and as giving the internet giants a month's notice of the need to comply. We're checking. Jason Kint of Digital Content Next describes the changes in a Tweet as "extraordinary diplomacy so that Facebook can attempt to save face through a few incidental amendments".