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Australia Vs Facebook - two sides to the story

02 19 2021 | 6:49View: 42

The battle between the Australian government and the tech giants over a law that would make them pay for news content has been rumbling on for a while.

But Facebook's move to ban all Australian news content from its platform has taken the conflict to a whole new level.

One of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers described it as "an act of war". But others see the actions of Australia's politicians as being an outrage against the principle of net neutrality.

This week's Tech Tent podcast asks whether Mark Zuckerberg overplayed his hand, making it more likely that other countries will follow Australia's lead.

'They botched it'

If Facebook's founder thought that his bold move to impose a news blackout in one country would make politicians around the world rethink how they regulate his company, he may have been right.

The problem is that they now seem even more determined to clip their wings



  • Listen to a recent episode of the program

For one thing, the way Facebook carried out its bold move ended up looking ham-fisted.

"They botched it, there's absolutely no doubt about that," says Steve Evans, a former BBC correspondent who is now a reporter for the Canberra Times.

"Not only did they block media organizations, but they blocked government health websites. So access to up-to-the-minute. information about Covid, for example, was suddenly not available on Facebook."

That meant the social media giant faced a wave of outrage, not just from Australian newspapers and politicians but around the world.

In the United States, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline said Facebook was not compatible with democracy, and that threatening to bring an entire country to its knees was the ultimate admission of monopoly power.

In the UK, Julian Knight MP, who chairs the Commons media select committee, said the company was behaving like a bully.

"This is a crass move," he told the BBC.

"I don't think they are being a good citizen, not just in Australia, but elsewhere [too].

"To pull the plug overnight represents the worst type of corporate culture."