Facebook has blocked Australian account holders from viewing or sharing all news content over a dispute with a government proposal to make digital giants pay domestic news outlets for their content.
Thursday’s move by the U.S.-based social media company was made despite ongoing negotiations between Facebook and rival Google with Australian media companies.
Facebook regional director Will Easton said in a written statement that the proposed law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content.”
Easton said the proposal left Facebook “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.”
The websites of several public agencies and emergency services were also blocked on Facebook, including pages that include up-to-date information on COVID-19 outbreaks, brushfires and other natural disasters.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tweeted Thursday that he and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg had “a constructive discussion” in which Zuckerberg “raised a few remaining issues” with the government’s news media bargaining code.
Australian media companies have seen their advertising revenue increasingly siphoned off by big tech firms like Google and Facebook in recent years.
Google had also threatened to block news content if the law were passed, even warning last August that Australians’ personal information could be “at risk” if digital giants had to pay for news content.
But the company has already signed a number of separate agreements with such Australian media giants as the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp, Nine Entertainment and Seven West Media.