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Facebook blocks news in Australia on government payment rules

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Facebook said Wednesday that Australian users and publishers will not be able to post news content on its social network after the country government threatened to force it to pay publishers.

The announcement is the most important and harsh split between Facebook and a foreign government over growing calls for big tech companies to pay publishers to display their content.

Campbell Brown, Facebook Vice President of Global News Partnerships, said in a blog post that Australian policies would do more harm than good to publishers.

“Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook,” she wrote. “From finding new readers to getting new subscribers and directing revenue, news organizations will not use Facebook unless it helps their bottom lines.”

The Facebook move means Australian publishers will be restricted from distributing or posting content on their company websites. News publishers outside Australia can still post articles, but Australians will not be able to view or share them.

Australian users will not be able to view or share Australian or international news and users worldwide will not be able to access Australian news content via Facebook.

Australia has been in the process of drafting a new law to force Facebook and other tech companies to pay publishers large sums for their content. In August, Facebook threatened to block Australian users and news publishers if the country did not change course.

In her post, Brown said the Australian governments proposed regulation failed to recognize the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers.

Facebook’s announcement came hours after Google took the opposite stance and announced it would pay publishers, including Rupert Murdochs News Corp., for the ability to display their content on its special news product, the Google News Showcase.

Google said Wednesday it had reached a three-year deal with News Corp. to pay them for their content globally, not just in Australia. Google also reached similar deals with other Australian publishers, including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and Junkee Media.

For months, Google and Facebook have been in conflict with Australia over whether to pay news organizations for the right to link to their journalism.

Opposite approaches shed light on differences between companies and their reliance on news content. For Google, failure to meet the requirements of Australian publishers is likely to mean the obligation to close entirely in Australia. The company has instead decided that it is easier to compensate publishers and avoid legal or regulatory headaches. Google recently made similar deals with French publishers under the threat of regulation there.

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