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Facebook Australia blocks news sites in escalation of payment row

18 Feb 2021 / technology Print

Row escalates as Facebook Australia blocks news sites

Social media giant Facebook has blocked Australian users from sharing or viewing any news content on the platform, in an escalation of a battle over payment for journalism.

The Australian Government is proposing a law which will force the tech giants to pay news organisations for their journalism.

Cross-party support

The measure passed the lower house of parliament yesterday, with broad cross-party support and will be debated again today.

Facebook links to local and global news sites were unavailable to Australians this morning. Those outside of the country were also unable to access the journalism, leaving users angry at the lack of access to trusted and authoritative news sources, during a pandemic.

About 17 million Australians visit the platform every month.

Public health

Public health and emergency pages were also blocked, though Facebook said this was an error. Australians could not access information from key government agencies, including police and emergency services, health departments and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Facebook said these pages had been "inadvertently impacted" and would be republished.

Human Rights Watch' Australia director said Facebook was censoring the flow of information in the country – calling it a "dangerous turn of events".

The move has been strongly criticised by the Australian Government as an example of the "immense market power of these digital social giants".

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the ban on news information had a "huge community impact" and that Facebook’s actions were “unnecessary and wrong”.


“We will legislate this code. We want the digital giants paying traditional news media businesses for generating original journalistic content," he said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg who added that "the eyes of the world are watching what's happening here.

"What they're effectively saying to Australians is: "You will not find content on our platform which comes from an organisation which employs professional journalists, which has editorial policies, which has fact-checking processes".

Both search behemoth Google and social media platform Facebook have argued against the proposed law as inimical to how the internet works.

Payment terms

However, Google has now agreed payment terms for journalism supplied by three major Australian media outlets.

Of every A$100 currently spent on digital advertising in Australian media, A$81 goes to Google and Facebook, roughly similar to the proportions in Ireland.

Local MD William Easton said the proposed law seeks "to penalise Facebook for content it didn't take or ask for".

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland