By AP and World Israel News Staff
A #DeleteFacebook campaign on Twitter is spreading around the world after Facebook on Thursday chose to block news content from Australians rather than have to pay for it.
Facebook was reacting to proposed laws in the country to make digital giants pay for journalism.
Facebook regional managing director William Easton said, “The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content.”
“It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter,” Easton added.
Australian publishers can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts can’t be viewed or shared by Australian audiences, the U.S.-based company said in a statement. Australian users cannot share Australian or international news. International users outside Australia also cannot share Australian news.
Politicians and Facebook users reacted angrily, and not just in Australia. U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) said “Facebook is not compatible with Democracy.”
“Threatening to bring an entire country to its knees to agree to Facebook’s terms is the ultimate admission of monopoly power,” he tweeted on Thursday.
The Australian law was a response to a cry for help from media companies which complained that social media giants like Facebook and Google were essentially eating their lunch, posting their content for free and benefiting from the advertising revenue.
Agreement might still be reached, however. The announcement comes a day after Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described as “very promising” negotiations between Facebook and Google with Australian media companies.
Frydenberg said after weekend talks with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, he was convinced that the platforms “do want to enter into these commercial arrangements.”
Frydenberg said he had had a “a constructive discussion” with Zuckerberg after Facebook blocked Australian news.
“He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward,” Frydenberg tweeted.
But communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the government would not back down on its legislative agenda.
“This announcement from Facebook, if they were to maintain this position, of course would call into question the credibility of the platform in terms of the news on it,” Fletcher told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“Effectively Facebook is saying to Australians information that you see on our platforms does not come from organizations that have editorial policies or fact-checking processes or journalists who are paid to do the work they do,” Fletcher added.
The Australian Parliament is debating proposed laws that would make Facebook and Google strike deals to pay for Australian news. Both platforms have condemned the proposed laws as unworkable. Google has also threatened to remove its search engine from the country.
But Google may be closer to working out a deal than Facebook. It’s striking pay deals with Australian news media companies under its own News Showcase model.
Seven West Media on Monday became the largest Australian news media business to strike a deal with Google to pay for journalism. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has since announced a wide-ranging deal. Rival Nine Entertainment is reportedly close to its own pact and ABC is also in negotiations.