'We will be proceeding with the Code': As Facebook bans Australian news, the government says it won't back down on new media laws

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  • The Federal Government says it won’t back down on its proposed news media bargaining code after Facebook banned Australian journalism from its site.
  • Communications Minister Paul Fletcher told ABC News Breakfast “we will be proceeding with the code.”
  • The laws, if passed, could compel Facebook and Google to pay Australian news outlets for the journalism they produce.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The Federal Government says it won’t back down on legislation which could force Facebook to pay for news content shared on the platform, after the social media juggernaut banned Australian users from sharing news links on Thursday morning.

In a seismic development for the local media, Facebook said it will restrict Australian news organisations from sharing links to their journalism.

Local users are now barred from accessing international news links through the social media platform, while overseas users will also be unable to view content posted to Facebook by Australian publishers.

The decision to ban Australian reporting from Facebook comes in response to the news media bargaining code, which could compel the platform and search engine giant Google to pay news outlets for the Australian journalism they display.

The Federal Government says the legislation addresses a power imbalance between local publishers and online giants, which now control a huge proportion of the multi-billion dollar digital ad market.

Google has pre-empted the legislation by signing individual commercial deals with a number of Australian news organisations, including Nine, the owner of this masthead.

But Facebook says the proposed rules are unworkable.

The legislation “left us 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,” said William Easton, Facebook’s managing director for Australia & New Zealand.

“With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Australian news organisations, many of which reach large local audiences through Facebook, are reeling at the development.

The removal of Australian news from Facebook has also raised fears that misinformation and dubious reports could fill the gap left by local outlets.

However, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher today said the government had no intentions of withdrawing its legislation, which yesterday passed in the Lower House.

“Firstly, we will be proceeding with the code,” Fletcher told ABC News Breakfast.

“We want Google and Facebook to stay in Australia but we have been very clear that if you do business in Australia, you need to comply with the laws passed by the elected parliament of this nation.”

Fletcher said the legislation addresses important competition and media policy issues that are “an important part of our democratic process.

“It may not seem so important in Silicon Valley but it is very important to the Australian Government and Australian people.”

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg struck a somewhat ore conciliatory tone, confirming he had a “constructive” discussion with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg early Thursday morning in which the multi-billionaire raised “a few remaining issues” with the legislation.

“We agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward,” Frydenberg said.

The proposed legislation will now head to the Senate, where it is expected to pass into law.

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