Facebook news ban 'a warning shot' in global struggle
Facebook has "rolled the dice" by banning Australian users and publishers from sharing news content and the move could cost the tech giant billions of dollars.
That is the view of digital media expert Andrew Hughes, who told nine.com.au today's decision was aimed at putting other countries on notice if they followed Australia's attempts to regulate digital media.
"It's a warning shot for the Federal Government and is aimed at the rest of the world. Facebook is saying: 'If you mess with us, this is what happens,'" Dr Hughes said.
Fire authorities, Bureau of Meteorology and state health pages caught up in Facebook news ban
Facebook this morning said it was left with a "stark choice" after being unable to find a "solution" in discussions with the Australian government over proposed media bargaining laws.
The news ban has extended to Australian emergency services Facebook pages as well as to government sites.
Dr Hughes, of the Australian National University in Canberra, said Facebook should have followed Google in making deals with Australian media companies to pay for original news content.
But instead it decided to pull news content in Australia, fearing it would open a can of worms.
"Facebook has probably been planning the move for some time. Unlike its competitors, it has only limited platforms to move its business to," Dr Hughes said.
"If it agreed to paying for news content here, bigger jurisdictions such as the US, UK and European Union would follow.
"That is how it works in this business.
"But there will also be other regions watching, such as Brazil and Indonesia, which aren't first world economies but have millions of social media users.
"It could end up costing Facebook billions of dollars."
EXPLAINED:Facebook has banned Australia's access to news, here's what it means for you
The technology giant said the Federal Government, and the proposed legislation, "seeks to penalise Facebook for content it didn't take or ask for".
"The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content," William Easton, Facebook's Australia and New Zealand managing director, said in a blog post.
Nine, the publisher of this site, said it was "unreasonable behaviour".
Dr Hughes said Facebook's ban was also part of a wider dispute between tech companies and national governments.
"It's essentially a power struggle ... Facebook is the prominent word-of-mouth communications tool," he said.
"The Australian government is saying to Facebook, 'you've had it good for so long and you can't expect not to pay forever.'"
What is the code of conduct for digital platforms?
In July, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced the draft code for digital platforms.
Under the mandatory code of conduct, technology giants Google and Facebook would be required to negotiate with Australian media companies over payment for news content and notify them of algorithm changes.
It followed a direction from the Morrison government in December 2019 to facilitate the development of voluntary codes to address bargaining power imbalances between digital platforms and news media businesses.
The development of a code of conduct is part of the government's response to the ACCC's Digital Platforms Inquiry final report to promote competition, enhance consumer protection and support a sustainable Australian media landscape in the digital age.
"What we've sought to do is create a level playing field to ensure a fair go for Australian news media businesses and that when they generate original content, they are fairly paid for it," Mr Frydenberg said in July.
"We want Google and Facebook to continue to provide these services to the Australian community which are so much loved and used by Australians.
"But we want it to be on our terms.
"We want it to be in accordance with our law and we want it to be fair, and that is what has motivated us with this mandatory code."