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Facebook Bans Entire World From Accessing Australian News Content

Australia wakes up to reality of Facebook without news

Australians are waking this morning to a Facebook without any local news content after the social media network followed through on threats to ban publishers from the platform.

The move, announced in a blog post, means Australian Facebook users will not be able read or share local or international news content on its news feeds, and Australian news publishers will be restricted from posting or sharing content on Facebook pages.

Those overseas will not be able to access any content from Australia, either.

People can, as of Thursday, still share Australian news links on Facebook-owned platforms Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

Facebook has stripped links and videos from Australia’s biggest news brands such as the ABC, Sydney Morning Herald, Yahoo News, BuzzFeed, and News.com.au. Facebook has also removed HuffPost Australia’s Facebook content.

Lifestyle brands like New Idea and Marie Claire are also affected.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s along with MS Research and satire site Betoota Advocate are also part of the ban.

The decision is in response to a news media bargaining code that would see big tech companies like Google and Facebook pay news publishers for content. The Australian federal government has said it plans to put the legislation, which effectively forces Google and Facebook to strike deals with media companies or have fees set for them, to a vote in the coming weeks.

Facebook said the proposed legislation “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between itself and publishers, arguing that news outlets voluntarily post their article links on the platform.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he has been in contact with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The reaction online has been mixed:

Google has also threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia to avoid “unworkable” content laws, even as it has secured deals with publishers in the U.K., Germany, France, Brazil and Argentina for its Google News Showcase product.

On Wednesday, Google reached a landmark global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, owner of the Wall Street Journal and two-thirds of Australia’s major city newspapers, to develop a subscription platform and share advertising revenue.

Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University Journalism School in New York, tweeted on Wednesday that the relationship was not as voluntary as it seems, and most publishers feel obligated to be on Facebook due to its dominance.

Facebook, which has long been criticised for allowing misinformation to flourish on its platforms, now finds itself in a peculiar position of also blocking the news media that has provided a fact check on false content.

With files from Reuters.

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