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Big Tech's Latest Power Trip Leaves Entire Country Cut Off from News on Facebook

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Facebook announced Thursday it has blocked Australians from viewing and sharing news on the platform because of proposed laws in the country to make tech giants pay for journalism.

Australian publishers can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts can’t be viewed or shared by Australian audiences, the company said in a statement.

Australian users cannot share Australian or international news. International users outside Australia also cannot share Australian news.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” Facebook regional managing director William Easton said.

“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. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter,” Easton added.

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The announcement comes a day after what Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described as “very promising” negotiations between Facebook and Google with Australian media companies.

After weekend talks with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, Frydenberg said he was convinced the platforms “do want to enter into these commercial arrangements.”

The Australian Parliament is debating proposed laws that would make the two platforms pay for Australian news.

The Senate will consider the draft laws after they were passed by the House of Representatives late Wednesday.

Do you think Facebook should have to pay for news?

Both platforms have condemned the proposed laws. Google has also threatened to remove its search engine from the country.

But Google is now striking deals with Australian news media companies.

Seven West Media on Monday became the largest Australian news media business to strike a deal with Google to pay for journalism. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has since announced a wide-ranging deal. Rival Nine Entertainment is reportedly close to its own deal and Australian Broadcasting Corp. is also in negotiations.

News plays a larger part in Google’s business model than it does in Facebook’s.


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