Views from experts about unprecedented tension between Facebook and Australia government

11:13 | 23/02/2021 Science - Technology

(VEN) The giant in the global technology industry – Facebook has just announced the restriction for users in Australia, banning them from sharing both local and international news. Experts from Monash University, Australia have made comments on this issue.    

views from experts about unprecedented tension between facebook and australia government

Recently, Facebook just announced that Australian users are not allowed to share or view contents from local and international news anymore, and Facebook users worldwide cannot share or view contents from Australian publishers either.

This is perceived as an extremely tough move by Facebook to oppose the ratification of the News Media Bargaining Code, which requires Google and Facebook to pay Australian newspaper agencies when the news is shared on these technology platforms.

According to the bill, not only does it include content usage fees, the code also regulates other issues such as access to users’ data, the transparency of the algorithm, ranking of content in the searching results and news providers of platforms. This bill is intended to apply to any digital platform that uses news content in Australia; however, it will firstly target Facebook and Google, the two richest and most powerful technology companies in the world at the moment.

In that context, although Facebook voiced strong opposition and considered this bill "illogical"; Google, after threatening to stop providing its search activities, chose to compromise with media corporations, including News Corp - a group that owns many major news outlets in Australia, the UK and the US. Three years is the commitment time to implement the agreement between Google and News Corp.

Proposing tech corporations to pay for content shared on their social media platforms has been around for a long time, and has only been really noticed recently as the battle between social media and media becomes more fierce. It is because the authorities in the US, Australia and many other places have expressed their consideration of the laws on this issue. Facebook's move to protest against the bill has sparked controversy around preventing users from viewing and sharing news from press agencies.

From a professional perspective, Associate Professor Carsten Rudolph, Department of Software Systems & Network Security, Department of Information Technology of Monash University commented: “There will be a variety of unintended consequences of this announcement. Content blocking of this nature can result in more unnecessary outlets being blocked, rather than less.

This issue raises some general questions about what role digital platforms play in our society. We need to be clear that they are commercial entities relying on a business model, whilst using exploitative data mining tactics.

Digital platforms benefit from a variety of creators. However, it is unclear why there is a law specifically focusing on news providers, while the general issue of digital platforms is exploiting creators without adequate compensation. Using users' data without adequate compensation has not been approached by legislation in a suitable way.”

Australian Environment Minister - Sussan Ley - acknowledged that Facebook's decision caused important news to be restricted from media, such as information of the Covid-19 pandemic, wildfires or the ongoing tornado in Australia.

“Google and Facebook have become the main way for Australians to access their news.

Imagine an Australian Facebook with the likes of Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly spreading unfounded COVID-19 treatments and misinformation about climate change, with no factual journalistic content to dispute his claims. Perhaps this is an opportunity for Australian entrepreneurs to launch alternatives to Facebook. Facebook's heavy-handed approach is likely to increase ‘techlash’ and will most likely do them little good in public opinion and illustrates why the news bargaining code is needed - to counterbalance the close to monopolistic dominance of Facebook." Associate Professor Johan Lidberg, Lecturer in Media, Film & Press School of Monash University expressed his view.

This firm decision of the Australian government aims to protect the traditional news industry, which is threatened by these trillion dollar technology giants.