The ACCC has lashed out at Facebook over its threat to ban news for Australian users, calling it ‘ill-timed and misconceived’

Zuckerberg’s grip on Facebook’s algorithms might be slipping. (Photo By Bill Clark,CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has rebuked Facebook over its threat to stop Australian users from sharing news on its Facebook and Instagram platforms.
  • Facebook’s suggestion comes in response to the Commission’s draft news media bargaining code, which would force Facebook, Google and Australian news publishers to negotiate over payment for news.
  • The back-and-forth follows a public attack from Google against the draft code earlier this month.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australia’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has hit back at Facebook’s suggestion that it ban Australian users from sharing local and international news if the Commission’s draft news media code goes ahead.

Earlier on Tuesday, the company’s Australia and New Zealand managing director Will Easton announced the course of action as “the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector.”

ACCC Chair Rod Sims has hit back at the suggestion, calling it “ill-timed and misconceived” in a statement.

“The draft media bargaining code aims to ensure Australian news businesses, including independent, community and regional media, can get a seat at the table for fair negotiations with Facebook and Google,” Sims said.

“Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses.”

Sims alludes to the role of news media and social media during the COVID-19 pandemic by citing figures about Australian’s digital diets.

“We note that according to the University of Canberra’s 2020 Digital News Report, 39% of Australians use Facebook for general news, and 49% use Facebook for news about COVID-19,” he said.

The response is takes a more conciliatory tone than the ACCC’s response to Google’s public campaign against the draft code earlier this month, which accused the search giant of spreading misinformation.

Public submissions for the draft code closed last week, and the ACCC says it is now working to draft its final news media bargaining code.