When talking about the disasterous publishing law in Australia, we tend to focus on the impact on Google. However, the other major player in this battle has been Facebook. Last Summer, when the country first published its draft for comment, Facebook was possibly the loudest opponent. The company said that, if the draft were made law, it would force the company to shut down sharing of local and international news on both Facebook and Instagram. This week, the company pulled the trigger, shutting down all news sharing in Australia.
The shutdown happened before the proposed law has become law, and is clearly intended to retaliatory or persuasive. The smart money suggests that Facebook wants the Australian people, and particularly the government, to see what the platform looks like without the ability to share news stories. The move seems to have backfired a little bit, though, as the response from users was surprisingly positive. Ozzy Man posted saying,
My personal newsfeed has become wall to wall gold given satire publications are still up.
People seemed to be enjoying the change of pace. This is, unless you were a news source on Facebook who got caught up in the block. Several pages commented on posts from those who were saved saying that their content, which was not news, was getting blocked as well. In the collection of publications that got banned on Facebook was Facebook. Their own page was not available on their own platform. Classic.
Of course, those who were most annoyed by what was happening were in the government. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to Facebook to complain about Facebook's move, saying,
Facebook's actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing. I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues.
These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them. They may be changing the world, but that doesn't mean they run it.
We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code. Just as we weren't intimidated when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.
I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian Government, as Google recently demonstrated in good faith.
The responses to his post are mixed, showing that there might be support for this move simply because it allows people to see content from their friends and family "rather than half truths."