Facebook will ban Australian news sites from its platform in an unprecedented move to avoid paying for local content.
In a direct response to the government's proposed media bargaining code, the social media giant announced it will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing both Australian and international news on the platform.
The contentious bargaining code, which the government is preparing to pass, would force the likes of Facebook and Google to pay Australian news outlets for their content, a code both giants vehemently opposed. However, Google has since conceded and struck deals with both Nine Entertainment Co and Seven West Media.
The government has been encouraging tech giants to strike deals with news outlets outside of the code - however, the laws would force the corporations to pay a rate determined by an independent body if an agreement was not reached.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton said the government's 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."
Under the ban, the Australian population will be unable to view or share both local and international news content on the platform.
"Over the last three years we've worked with the Australian government to find a solution that recognizes the realities of how our services work... unfortunately this legislation does not do that. Instead it seeks to penalise Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for," Easton said.
"Unfortunately, this means people and news organisations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook. Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted."
What this means
- Australian publishers are restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook pages
- International publishers can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but the links and posts cannot be viewed or shared by Australian audiences
- The Australian population cannot view or share both local and international news content on Facebook, or content from Australian and international news pages
- International audiences cannot view or share Australian news content on Facebook, or content from Australian news pages.
"We hope that in the future the Australian government will recognise the value we already provide and work with us to strengthen, rather than limit, our partnerships with publishers," Easton said.
Earlier this week, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said constructive discussions had taken place with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the weekend.
"What became clear to me in those discussions with Google and with Facebook is that they do want to enter into these commercial arrangements. That is their preference," he said on Wednesday.
Yet despite Google's threats to withdraw its search engine from Australia if the bargaining code passed, the giant has now reportedly struck a AU$30 million annual deal with Nine Entertainment Co for its news content, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The deal would sit outside the search function, reports the outlet, but will cover its newspapers, television, radio and digital assets.
Seven West Media announced its own AU$30 million deal with Google on Monday.
On Wednesday, Frydenberg said Google's decision to come to the table with "fair and generous deals" is proof that the government's media bargaining code is working.