Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed on Friday to advance the law to force Facebook to pay the news media for content, and said that he has won the support of world leaders after the social media giant blocked all media.

Facebook stripped Australians’ domestic and foreign news media pages on Thursday and prohibited users of the platform from sharing any news content, saying that Facebook had no choice before the new content law.

The move also erased several accounts of the state government and emergency departments, as well as the websites of non-profit charities, which caused widespread indignation.

Morrison blew up Facebook on his own platform to make it “not friends” with Australia. Morrison said on Friday that the leaders of the United Kingdom, Canada, France and India have expressed support.

Morrison told reporters in Sydney: “The world is very interested in Australia’s actions.”

“That’s why I invited… Facebook to participate constructively because they know what Australia will do here, and many other Western countries will follow suit.”

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said on Thursday night that his country will adopt Australia’s approach when enacting its own legislation in the coming months.

Australian law will force Facebook and Google to enter into commercial transactions with Australian publishers or face compulsory arbitration. The House of Commons has passed this Australian law and is expected to be passed by the Senate next week.

Australian Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg said that he has spoken to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the second time after the news blackout.

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Frydenberg said in a tweet: “We discussed their remaining issues and agreed that our respective teams will work through them immediately. We will discuss them again at the weekend.”

In its statement announcing the move, Facebook said that Australian law “misunderstood” its value to publishers. Freudenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation earlier that “not only one or two commercial transactions are involved here, but there are also greater risks. This is related to Australia’s sovereignty.”

Facebook and Alphabet-owned Google jointly launched an anti-law campaign, both threatening to withdraw key services from Australia after the law takes effect.

However, Google announced a series of pre-licensing transactions in the past week, including a global agreement with News Corp.

Facebook resumed some government pages late on Thursday, but several charities, non-profit organizations and even community groups remained blank.

Network traffic drops

According to early data from New York analytics company Chartbeat, Facebook’s move had a direct impact on the number of visits to Australian news sites.

Chartbeat data shows that since the date of the ban, the total traffic from various platforms to Australian news websites has dropped by about 13% within the country and about 30% outside the country.

Similarly, the number of visits from Facebook to Australian news sites dropped from about 21% to about 2% within Australia, and from about 30% to about 4% abroad.

When Michael Miller, the executive chairman of News Corp Australia, testified at an unrelated parliamentary hearing, he confirmed the impact, but said that the number of Australians who directly visited the company’s website had increased.

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He told the inquiry: “There is absolutely no referral traffic… At the same time, direct traffic to our website is growing by double digits.”

Miller also suggested that the antitrust regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), should carefully study Facebook’s actions.

Thomson Reuters 2021 ©


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