Treasurer labels FB news ban “unnecessary and heavy-handed”

Australia’s Treasurer has slammed Facebook’s ban on Australian news content, warning it will ruin the social media giant’s reputation down under.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra on Thursday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the ban cements the “immense market power of these media digital giants”.

“Facebook was wrong. Facebook’s actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed,” Mr Frydenberg said.


“Their decision to block Australians’ access to government sites – be they about support through the pandemic, mental health, emergency services, the Bureau of Meteorology – were completely unrelated to the media code which is yet to pass through the Senate.”

Mr Frydenberg said despite today’s escalation, the Government remains committed to legislating and implementing the media code.

“This digital code, this new media bargaining code, is very important microeconomic reform,” he said.

“We want to thank Google for the very constructive discussions that they have been having with stakeholders.”

When asked whether the Government was blindsided by the sudden move by Facebook, Mr Frydenberg said there was no warning.

“We certainly weren’t given any notice by Facebook,” the Treasurer said, despite speaking with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg over the weekend.

“I also spoke to him this morning,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“We had a pretty lengthy conversation, around half an hour, and it was constructive. I think there’s some differing interpretations as to how the code would work… We talked through some of those elements and so, we are going to work through those issues with Facebook.”

Mr Frydenberg said the actions of Facebook are a shock, as the social media giant had been in discussions with Australian media companies.

“Facebook had been, up to this point, engaged in pretty constructive discussions with the Australian news media businesses. They had made quite a lot of progress… And deals were relatively close,” he said.

“They had made significant progress, and they are committed to paying for content, and they did tell me that they like being here in Australia. So, we will look at their actions today. We’ll hear from them in the coming days. And we’ll see if we can find a pathway forward.”

The dramatic escalation has seen emergency service pages across the country also cleared of all content and banned from sharing any further posts.

Queensland Health, Gold Coast Health, the Bureau of Meteorology, DV Connect, Translink, RACQ Lifeflight and Rize Up Australia are just a few of thousands of essential Facebook pages that have been taken down.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she is “very concerned” and urged the Federal Government to “see sense and sort this issue out quickly.”

“I think the Federal Government needs to sort this out quickly,” she said.

“You cannot have vital information not getting to people when that is where they go to get their source of information, so it needs to be fixed up and it needs to be fixed up today.”

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This is perhaps an opportune time and reminder of user safety on Facebook and for the best. Topicthread is a “micro” social network built for Australian’s in mind with a security and user first approach (and we are local) so it’s a good time for locals to have a look at an alternative network with better policies to protect them.

I think media companies are just being greedy. Why should Facebook have to pay because a user shares a news story? Why should Google have to pay to LINK to a news story then send traffic to the news agency. Completely stupid, the whole thing.