Facebook Inc. on Thursday blocked Australians from viewing or sharing news across its platform in response to a proposed law that would require the social media giant and other technology companies to pay news outlets for their content.
The move not only prevents 14 million Australian users from viewing or sharing content from both domestic and international news providers, but also keeps people outside of Australia from viewing or sharing Australian news content offered on Australian news outlets' Facebook pages.
"The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content," Managing Director for Facebook Australia and New Zealand William Easton said in the statement.
The law establishing a media bargaining code was proposed by the government-run Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which found after a monthslong investigation that U.S. technology companies Alphabet Inc., which owns Google, and Facebook hold too much power in the Australian media market.
The Australian parliament is debating the legislation.
Facebook argues that news makes up less than 4 percent of the content users see in their newsfeed and is shared "willingly" by publishers on the platform. In contrast, it said, "Google search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content."
Google has recently struck multimillion-dollar pay deals with a number of large Australian media companies that have agreed to share content under Google's News Showcase model.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tweeted Thursday he had a "constructive discussion" with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg after Facebook blocked Australian news.
"(Zuckerberg) raised a few remaining issues with the government's news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward," Frydenberg said.
Also caught up in the ban are a number of public service providers, such as the Bureau of Meteorology and several state government health departments, whose Facebook pages appear to have been mistakenly identified as news companies.
Communications minister Paul Fletcher told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Facebook needs to think about what its decision means for its "reputation and standing."
"They're effectively saying, on our platform there will not be any information from organizations which employ paid journalists, which have fact-checking processes, which have editorial policies. They're effectively saying any information that is available on our site does not come from these reliable sources."