Facebook has followed through on its threat to ban Australians from seeing or posting news content on its site in response to the federal government’s news media code.
The tech giant’s Australian and New Zealand managing director, Will Easton, said this it would block links to Australian publishers from being posted, while all Australian users would not be able to share or see content from any news outlets, both Australian and internation.
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” he said in a blog post published on Thursday morning. “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.”
News sites, including Guardian Australia, show no posts on their Facebook page as of Thursday morning.
Users on Thursday reported seeing a pop-up error window when they attempted to post links to news, stating these cannot be posted in response to the news media code.
Easton said publishers stood to gain more from sharing content on Facebook than Facebook does, with news content accounting for less than 4% of all content shared, and the company was willing to support news, but only with “the right rules in place”.
“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,” he said.
Fact-checking and Covid-19 information will remain in place to combat misinformation on the platform, but the ban will mean people will not be able to post links from news sites in response to seeing misinformation on the platform.
Australia’s communications minister, Paul Fletcher, said the move raised questions about the credibility of information now available on Facebook.
“The decision they’re taking … is [to] remove all authoritative incredible news sources from the platform,” he told 2GB radio.
“And now that is a decision that they’ve announced today. Obviously the Australian government will consider that very carefully but it certainly raises issues about the credibility of information on the platform.”
Facebook’s move is in contrast to the approach from the other major platform subject to the code, Google.
Although Google had threatened to withdraw its search engine from Australia if the code went ahead, in the past week, Google has signed agreements with some of Australia’s biggest publishers, including News Corp, Nine Entertainment and Seven West Media, for payment for its News Showcase product. The Nine deal is reportedly worth $30m a year.
Guardian Australia is also in negotiations with Google over Showcase.