Facebook Australia’s threat to block users from sharing news content on its platforms has been condemned as “ill-timed and misconceived”.
The social media giant made the warning on Monday as part of its efforts to persuade the Australian government not to push ahead with plans that would force the firm to pay publishers for their content.
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On Tuesday, several groups hit out at Facebook Australia’s threat, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which has proposed the new regulations.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said: “Facebook’s threat today to prevent any sharing of news on its services in Australia is ill-timed and misconceived.
“The draft media bargaining code aims to ensure Australian news businesses, including independent, community and regional media, can get a seat at the table for fair negotiations with Facebook and Google.
“Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses.”
Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology, accused Facebook of displaying “a pattern of behaviour of treating democracy with this sort of contempt”.
He said that if the tech platform acts on its warning, it will allow “disinformation and conspiracy theories to flourish”.
Lewis added: “As a big advertising company, Facebook would do well to realise its success is only as strong as its network of users.
“Bullying their elected representatives seems a strange way to build long-term trust.”
David Chavern, chief executive of US publishing body the News Media Alliance, accused Facebook of attempting to “bully the Australian government and legislature. It is also a clear attempted exercise of their massive, anticompetitive market power. I suspect the Australian authorities won’t be easily intimidated.
“And without quality news and information, all of Facebook’s problems with misinformation would just become much worse. They would be taking away the only real balance for all the crazy rumors and conspiracy theories that they deliver.
“They should, instead, embrace quality journalism as an answer for many of their issues and offer Australian publishers better and more economically sustainable ways to deliver it to the public.”