Why did Facebook block messages in Australia and what does that mean for the rest of the world? | World news

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Facebook has prevented Australians from accessing and sharing news in the battle for internet platforms where media organizations are paid for content.

Sky News is exploring why this happened and why it matters to the rest of the world.

What happened and why

The Australians woke up on Thursday and discovered them couldn’t access messages on her facebook Accounts and people around the world were unable to post or share links from Australian publications.

Commercial and government communications sites, community support groups, charities, and emergency services messages were also inaccessible.

A still image from a Reuters video showing the message Australian Facebook users get when they try to share news
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Australian Facebook users get this message when trying to share messages

The US-based social media giant took the step after the Australian House of Representatives passed a law to force internet companies to pay news organizations.

Facebook said the bill, to be passed by the Senate, “profoundly misunderstands the relationship between our platform and the publishers who use it.”

High-performing tech companies fear the law could set an expensive precedent for other countries as governments try to keep up with the fast-changing digital world.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison used his Facebook page to respond, saying: “Facebook’s efforts to unfriend Australia today and cut off vital health and rescue information services have been both arrogant and disappointing.”

According to Josh Frydenberg, the government treasurer, Facebook accounts for 23% of Australia’s online advertising revenue, while Google accounts for 53%.

Why is Australia trying to get internet companies to pay news organizations?

For two decades, global news outlets have complained that internet companies get rich at their expense by selling advertisements linked to their reports without sharing any revenue.

The block also affected Sky News UK
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The block also affected Sky News’ Facebook page in the UK

The Australian government is looking to restore that balance in the hope that more money can be poured into a news industry that has to shrink revenue and, in some cases, cut coverage.

Canberra’s competition authority tried to negotiate a voluntary payment plan with Google, but it failed.

This was followed by the new proposal to set up a committee to make binding decisions on the price of news reports in order to give publishers more room to negotiate with the internet giants.

Has Google approved the plan?

The internet tech giant threatened retaliation but announced deals in Australia with Rupert Murdochs News Corp and Seven West Media while the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Nine Entertainment are in negotiations.

No financial details were released, but it does mean news companies now have a new source of income.

News Corp, which owns Sky News in Australia – separately from Sky News UK – said it would receive “substantial payments” from Google under a three-year contract that also covers its non-Australian publications such as the New York Post and the Times and the sun in Britain.

An Australian Broadcasting Corporation page on Facebook appears with no posts in Sydney on Thursday, February 18, 2021. Facebook promises to restrict message exchanges as Australian lawmakers consider forcing digital giants into payment arrangements. (AP Photo / Rick Rycroft) ..
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The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Facebook page appeared without any of its news items

Does Google’s Deal mean more coverage for readers, viewers, and listeners?

That remains unclear.

The Australian Journalists’ Union is calling on media companies to ensure that online revenue goes “not into the boardroom” for news gathering.

Will other countries follow Australia?

The proposed law is the first of its kind, but other countries have pressured Google, Facebook, and other internet companies to pay news outlets and other publishers for material.

In France, Google had to negotiate with publishers after a court upheld an order last year that a 2019 EU copyright directive requires payment agreements.

Facebook News launches today in the UK
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In contrast to the ban, Facebook has set up a “News” tab in the UK

France is the first government to enforce the rules, but the decision suggests other countries in the 27-nation bloc will enforce the same requirements.

A group of French publishers and Google announced a framework agreement for the search engine to negotiate licensing agreements with individual publishers.

Several outlets have signed contracts with Google, including the newspaper Le Monde and the weekly magazine l’Obs.

Facebook started a Facebook news tab in the UK after signing contracts with many of the country’s top news providers including Sky News, the Financial Times and The Guardian.

Google shut down its news site in Spain after a 2014 law required publishers to pay.

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Facebook ‘a schoolyard bully’ in Australia

And in 2020, Facebook announced that it would pay U.S. news organizations like USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post to make headlines. No financial details were released.

After the Google deal, Frydenberg said he was convinced the platforms “want to make these commercial agreements.”

“It’s a big step forward that we’ve seen this week,” he said.

“But if that were easy, every other country in the world would have done it. But they didn’t.”

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