Prime Minister Scott Morrison has labelled Facebook’s decision to ban Australian users from viewing news content as “arrogant” and warned that he is in regular contact with world leaders, who are all contending with how to better regulate Big Tech.
“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook.
“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of Big Tech companies, who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them,” he wrote.
“They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it,” he added.
“We will not be intimidated by Big Tech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code.”
Morrison has spoken openly of the need for regulatory frameworks to keep pace with the digital world and has expressed hope that world leaders can cooperate on reining in the power of the tech giants.
“A lot of the regulation and how taxation works, antitrust competition laws, they’ve got to catch up,” Morrison told Sky News Australia in early February.
“You can’t have these platforms with a business model which is about being in the Wild West forever … The sheriff eventually gets the rule of law in place in this world,” he added.
Morrison is due to meet with G7 leaders in June where many fellow attendees, including Canada, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom are already examining new laws to cope with the influence of the social media giants.
On Thursday, Facebook followed through on an earlier threat to ban all news content from its platform in Australia.
A cross-section of non-media related Facebook pages were caught in the crossfire, with many seeing their pages frozen or inaccessible.
Some entities affected include the Queensland Health Department, the national Bureau of Meteorology, members of Parliament, and even non-profit organisations, such as 1800 Respect, trade unions, and the World Wildlife Fund.
So Facebook has blocked access to our page😬
— WWF_Australia (@WWF_Australia) February 18, 2021
Facebook’s move comes as the Morrison government’s News Media Bargaining Code is expected to pass through Parliament.
The code legislates a framework that allows eligible Australian news outlets to enter negotiations with Google and Facebook to have the tech giants pay for their content.
Despite initial resistance, Google eventually came to the table and spent this week signing off deals with major media outlets News Corp, Seven West Media, and Nine Entertainment.