Facebook blocks Aussie news

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Australians are waking up to Facebook pages that look very different this morning, as the social media giant blocks publishers and users from sharing news content on its platform.

The decision comes in the shadow of the Australian Government’s proposed media bargaining laws, which would make it mandatory for Facebook and Google to enter arbitration with news publishers for payment for value they obtain from having news content in news feeds and search results.

The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code passed through the House of Representatives on Wednesday night and is expected to pass the Senate and become law as early as next week.

In a blog post published on Thursday morning, Facebook 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.”

After threatening to shut down its search engines for Australian users earlier this year, Nine and Seven announced this week that both media companies had come to multi-million dollar deals with Google, with the search engine paying publishers for their content. NewsCorp and other publishers have similar agreements in process. The Australian Financial Review estimated Google would pay over $100 million to Australian publishers.

But Facebook has said its relationship with publishers is fundamentally different to Google.

“Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content. On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue,” the company said in its statement.