Why is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at war with Australia?
Facebook has recently made a shocking new business decision to block news sharing on its Australian branch. This move has regulators across the globe concerned and has people in Australia angry. What exactly went down to inspire this surprising move from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg? Here’s everything we know about the war between Facebook & Australia.
New Australian law
On Thursday, Facebook announced the restrictions against Australia in response to a bill recently proposed by the country, in which Facebook & Google would be forced to pay Australian sites for news content.
William Easton, the managing director of Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, wrote in a blog post that the proposed bill would punish Facebook “for content it didn’t take or ask for.” Indeed, according to him, Facebook snagged around 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers, worth around a whopping $407 million.
Easton wrote in a statement: “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.”
Despite threats from Facebook, however, Australian communications Minister Paul Fletcher told Australian Broadcasting Corp that the country would not be backing down from its proposed bill.
“This announcement from Facebook, if they were to maintain this position, of course would call into credibility of the platform in terms of the news on it. Effective Facebook is saying to Australians information that you see on our platforms does not come from organizations that have editorial policies or fact-checking processes or journalists who are paid to do the work they do.”
Immediately in response to the proposed bill, Facebook switched off the news source for around one in five Australians. Not only this, but the change accidentally, (according to Facebook, at least), disabled government Facebook pages which held COVID-19 health advice, weather advice, and even a children’s hospital site.
According to treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s reaction to the bill was careless & dangerous. Daniel Angus, an associate professor in digital communication at Queensland University of Technology, seconded that sentiment, explaining that: “They’ve created chaos, and it’s quite deliberate.”
This remark is slightly surprising coming from Frydenberg, as he had recently tweeted about a successful & productive meeting he had with Facebook founder Zuckerberg. “He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s new media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward,” he wrote.
Angus continued: “Other nations and governments will be looking and wondering if they can negotiate in good faith with the company. The Australian government can now argue that this company is dangerously under-regulated.”
Is Google in on it?
According to Bloomberg, Facebook is not the only one who disagrees with Australia’s proposed news law. Google has also recently threatened to follow Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s lead and shut its engine down if the bill is passed.
Life without news?
Reports say that Facebook and Google make up for the primary news sources for half of all Australians. Now, locals are living a nightmare. 17 million Australian Facebook users are now unable to share news. Australians are essentially alienated from the rest of the world.
A media & journalism professor at Melbourne’s Monash University, Johan Lidberg, notes that Australians will now be forced to gather their news from non-reputable sources. He explained that there’s already a “cesspool of misinformation” floating around. “Imagine if you only have that. It would be horrible.”