September 20, 2021

Facebook’s Unconscionable Action in Australia – and What It Means for the Rest of the World

The proposed law that the tech giant is fighting has problems, but Facebook’s removal of news is inexcusable.

This week, Facebook hit the kill switch on news for the 17 million Australian users of its platform. Its action was in response to a proposed law advancing through the Australian Parliament that aims to level the playing field for traditional media organizations in the online environment. But Facebook did not just block traditional media outlets. Thanks to the overbroad definition of “news,” Facebook Pages ranging from hotlines for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence and Suicide Prevention Australia, through to the national weather service went dark.

There is plenty to critique in the proposed Australian law. Facebook claims the law “misunderstands” the company’s relationship with news organizations. Certainly, the law would force Facebook to change aspects of its business model. It would require the company to pay news organizations for content displayed on the social media platform – with the stated goal of addressing the power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and major digital platforms.. Digital rights activists, however, make a compelling argument that, despite claiming to support journalism, the law as written arguably risks doing little more than shift advertising profits — derived from extracting users’ personal data – from big tech shareholders to big media shareholders. And this view is consistent with the influence that media mogul Rupert Murdoch had in advancing the inquiry that laid the groundwork for the law. Read the rest of the article here.

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