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Facebook news feeds unavailable in Australia due to taxation
02-23-2021, 07:31 AM
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Facebook news feeds unavailable in Australia due to taxation
February 19th, 2021

By Alan Macleod @AlanRMacLeod
Australia’s 18 million Facebook users woke up yesterday to find that, without warning, local and global news sites were unavailable, meaning that they could not view or share news at all. Facebook users across the world were also unable to read or access any Australian news publications. The tech giant had taken the step of essentially shutting down its site and “unfriending” an entire nation in response to the government’s proposals to tax them.

Lawmakers in Canberra had drawn up plans to “level the playing field” between social media giants and the traditional press. In practice, this would mean Facebook and Google handing over a sizable chunk of their advertising profits to the government to subsidize struggling news outlets, on whom they depend for content.

In choosing the nuclear option, Facebook appears to have hoped to trigger a public outcry that would force the government into a U-turn. However, it seems to have miscalculated, as the action drew widespread condemnation, even from human rights groups. Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s Australia Director condemned the company for “severely restricting the flow of information to Australians,” not just for news, but also information on government health and emergency services. “This is an alarming and dangerous turn of events,” she concluded.

“It is extremely concerning that a private company is willing to control access to information that people rely on. Facebook’s action starkly demonstrates why allowing one company to exert such dominant power over our information ecosystem threatens human rights,” said Tim O’Connor of Amnesty International Australia. “Facebook’s willingness to block credible news sources also stands in sharp distinction to the company’s poor track record in addressing the spread of hateful content and disinformation on the platform,” he added.


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