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News has been banned from Facebook in Australia

After a disagreement with the Australian Government, Facebook users living in the country can no longer share or view news content via the social media platform.

Following the Australian Government’s proposal to charge social media companies for the news articles they share online, Facebook has decided to block users from sharing or viewing news on its platform in the country. This is an unprecedented move that once again puts the function of social media in civil society back under the microscope.

In its official statement, Facebook underlined its opposition to paying for news content by noting that “publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue.” The social media giant also drew attention to the lopsided cost/benefit relationship that it has with news providers: “Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million. For Facebook, the business gain from news is minimal. News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their News Feed.”

However Facebook’s sweeping imposition sparked real concern when some unexpected targets were caught up in the ban, including pages dedicated to emergency services (which were later restored).

Indeed, one of the casualties was Facebook’s own Facebook page. 

In his riposte, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote in a Facebook post (naturally): “These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them. They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.”

Many users on social media were quick to point out that Facebook has accommodated far more draconian requests from authoritarian governments in the past, and that this unprecedented action has only occurred in response to proposed legislation in a democratic country that may threaten their profit margin.

While our dear readers from Down Under may currently be deprived of Recombu’s Facebook posts, they might at least appreciate some of the memes and jokes that the stand-off has generated.

Oh and if you’re living anywhere in the world other than Australia, please feel free to share this news on Facebook.

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