The Big Tech giant Facebook unexpectedly issued a sweeping ban on an entire country on Thursday, implementing a new policy that prohibits any and all Australian users from sharing any news articles on the social media platform, as reported by the AP.
The blanket ban came after Australia’s House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at cracking down on Big Tech’s bias and censorship, by requiring Facebook and Google to pay for Australian journalism. Although the bill has yet to pass through the Senate, Facebook issued a notice saying that “In response to Australian government legislation, Facebook restricts the posting of news links and all posts from news pages in Australia.” The post added that “Globally, the posting and sharing of news links from Australian publications is restricted.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that he was given no advanced warning by Facebook prior to the unprecedented nationwide ban, calling the company’s actions “unnecessary” and “heavy-handed,” adding that “they will damage its reputation here in Australia.” Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to his own Facebook page to criticize “Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services,” adding that they were “as arrogant as they were disappointing.”
Nevertheless, Morrison said that “we will not be intimidated by Big Tech seeking to pressure our Parliament,” implying that the legislation will move forward and become law. Facebook responded to the criticism by claiming that the legislation “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it.”
Under the proposed law, there would be a “negotiation safety net” set up by an arbitration panel, which would ensure that the Big Tech companies could not demand “take-it-or-leave-it” deals during payment negotiations with media companies for their works of journalism.
The increasingly heated standoff reflects the growing discontent and pushback against Big Tech in recent months by multiple world leaders. The backlash started with the decision by Twitter and other social media platforms to permanently ban then-President of the United States Donald Trump back in early January, over baseless allegations that he incited a riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. The decision to ban him led to criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and others.