Facebook to Dump Australian News Posts Over Proposed Pay-to-Post Law

In a response to a law that aims to make technology companies pay local news publishers a portion of their advertising revenue, Facebook said it would not allow users in Australia to post or share news content. 

This combination of file photos shows a Google sign and the Facebook app. Proposed Australian laws to make Facebook and Google pay for journalism will likely pass the Australian Senate with bipartisan support, leading Facebook to ban users there from sharing or posting news content. (AP Photo/File)

(CN) — Facebook will restrict users in Australia from sharing or publishing news content on its site in response to a law being considered that would require social media platforms to pay news publishers for content. 

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” Facebook said in a blog post Wednesday. “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.”

Australian users will be barred from reading or sharing news content on Facebook, and news publishers in the country will not be able to share or publish their content on the social media platform. 

Called the News Media Bargaining Code, the law is expected to pass with bipartisan support in the Australian Senate, according to several reports. Lawmakers have said they want the law to pass before the current legislative session ends Feb. 28. 

If passed, the law would require companies like Google and Facebook, which host news articles on their websites, to give a portion of their advertising revenue to local news publishers depending on how many views go to these sites. 

Facebook and Google both fiercely oppose the law, which was introduced this past August. On Tuesday, Facebook said it differs from Google in that news publishers willingly post their news stories on Facebook to drive traffic to their own sites. 

“The value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favor of the publishers — which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume,” the company said. “Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million.”

Google has also threatened to shut down its search engine as it calls the rules implemented by the law “unworkable.”

Facebook and Google account for 81% of digital advertising revenue in Australia, which news publishers complain is putting them out of business while deteriorating an important component of a functioning democracy — a free press. 

The law aims to create an arbitration panel with the power to decide how much of the proceeds generated by Facebook, Google and other technology companies should be allocated to local news publishers. 

On Monday, Google struck a deal with Seven West Media — the largest media company in the country — to pay for its journalism. Google has struck similar deals in other countries, including France, where the company pays under a digital copyright model. 

Facebook said Tuesday it should not be lumped in with Google’s business model. 

“Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content,” Facebook said. “On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue.”

Facebook said it was prepared to negotiate with Australian news publishers but would not do so under the conditions created by the new law. 

“This legislation sets a precedent where the government decides who enters into these news content agreements, and ultimately, how much the party that already receives value from the free service gets paid,” the company said. 

The Australian government has yet to comment. 

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