Australia’s former CEO of Facebook has accused the social media giant of trying to ‘bully and intimidate’ the country by banning its news sources.
Facebook blocked Aussies from reading and sharing local news on Thursday in response to a world-first law to make tech companies pay media outlets for the content they use.
When Australians go to reliable Facebook news accounts they are met with a message saying ‘no posts’ were available.
Even overseas news is hidden.
Stephen Scheeler, former Facebook Australia and New Zealand chief executive officer, said the social media juggernaut has jumped the gun by banning news before the new law has even come into force.
‘You could say that is a bullying or intimidation tactic, so it can be quite hard for either party to back away from this whilst still saving face,’ he told The Project.
Stephen Scheeler, former Facebook Australia and New Zealand chief executive officer, said the tech giant jumped the gun by banning news before the new law has even come into force
Mr Scheeler blasted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for only caring about money and power
Mr Scheeler said the controversial move raises concerns about where the future of journalism is headed
Mr Scheeler also blasted Facebook for banning services that provide Aussies with info on Covid, as well as domestic violence help lines.
‘Facebook was willing to basically do something that was reckless, that it didn’t matter who else was going to be damaged, we are going to do this for our own financial benefit,’ he said.
‘If it was intentional, it is an even worse thing but that doubly shows that Facebook doesn’t care.
‘It’s irresponsible and I’m really disappointed that Facebook took this move.’
Mr Scheeler said the controversial move raises concerns about where the future of journalism is headed.
‘I think you have to look at it in two ways. One is from the user perspective. So you can’t find your favourite news from your favourite outlets on Facebook, that is not going to completely change your world,’ he said.
‘But everybody is not getting news from relatively reputable sources within Australia and instead they’re getting news that’s coming from places that are unreliable.
The decision means Daily Mail Australia’s nearly five million followers can no longer access our news content on Facebook
A screenshot shows a notification from Facebook that explains a news article cannot be shared
‘It is not as accurate… they are not being shared any news coming from Australia about Australian issues and things that form how we build ourselves as a society and run ourselves as a democracy. And that’s the bigger issue.’
Mr Scheeler, who resigned from Facebook in 2017, encouraged Australians to delete the app out of protest.
‘If you’re Rio Tinto and you blow up an Aboriginal sacred site, there are consequences, people lose their jobs. But at Facebook nobody ever loses their jobs,’ he told The Australian.
‘I’m a proud ex-Facebooker, but over the years I get more and more exasperated. For Facebook and Mark it’s too much about the money, and the power, and not about the good.
If you wanted a glaring example of why Facebook needs more regulation, this is it’
Former Australia and New Zealand Facebook CEO Stephen Scheeler
‘Imagine if a Chinese company for example had done this, we would be up in arms. All Australians should be quite alarmed by this.’
Mr Scheeler also fears the move could lead to a rise in ‘fake news’ and ‘misinformation’ on the platform.
‘I’m sad for Facebook in a way, but if you wanted a glaring example of why Facebook needs more regulation, this is it,’ he said.
Mr Scheeler, who has since opened his own consultancy firm, said Facebook is now more powerful than the world’s greatest governments.
‘There’s no ballot box where you can vote against Mark Zuckerberg. And in fact, even if you’re a Facebook shareholder, your vote carries no weight,’ he said.
The Government’s proposed law which so unsettled Facebook would create an arbitration panel to set a binding price for news in cases where tech giants failed to reach deals with media companies whose original journalism they linked to.
Facebook executives feared giving in to the laws could set a global precedent where it was forced to pay to distribute news.
But now news is banned altogether Down Under and media scholars fear disinformation will now run rampant on Facebook.
Google had also threatened to pull its search engine from Australia in response to the legislation. But the search giant backflipped in recent weeks, striking deals with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has insisted the government will not back down and said the publisher could either abide by Australia’s laws or leave the country.
The law passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday night and looks set to pass the Senate within days.
Scott Morrison on Thursday afternoon said the government won’t be intimidated by the tech giant.
‘Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,’ he wrote on his own Facebook account.
‘These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are as expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.
‘We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code.
‘Just as we weren’t intimidated when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.’
A release from the social media behemoth says: ‘The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content.
‘It has 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.
‘With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.’
Scott Morrison on Thursday afternoon said the government won’t be intimidated by the tech giant
It adds: ‘We were prepared to launch Facebook News in Australia and significantly increase our investments with local publishers, however, we were only prepared to do this with the right rules in place.’
Facebook said Australian users will not be able read or share news content on the platform, and Australian news publishers will be restricted from posting or sharing content on Facebook pages.
The Facebook page for Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, now appears like this – saying ‘no posts yet’
Australia’s two largest free-to-air TV stations, Seven West Media and Nine Entertainment, have already reportedly struck deals with Google collectively worth $60million a year.
News Corp said it would receive ‘significant payments’ from Google in its three-year agreement, which wraps in the Times and the Sun newspapers in the UK, the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the US, and Sky News TV channel in Australia.
Thursday’s news ban was spectacularly botched with organisations as diverse as health departments, domestic violence charities, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the country’s main source of weather information, the Bureau of Meteorology, banned from posting.
Facebook said that was a mistake – but blamed the broad definition of news in the forthcoming laws.
‘The actions we’re taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content,’ a spokeswoman said.
CHANGES TO NEWS IN AUSTRALIA
Facebook has restricted publishers and social media users in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.
What does this mean for Australian news organisations?
Australian news organisations will be restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages
Admins will still be able to access Page insights and Creator Studio on their Facebook pages
Facebook said they will continue to provide access to other standard services, including data tools and CrowdTangle
What does this mean for international news organisations?
International news organisations can still post on Facebook but Australian users will not be able to see the content or share it
What does this mean for Australian Facebook users?
Australian Facebook users will not be able to view or share Australian or international news content
What does this mean for international Facebook users?
International Facebook users will not be able to view or share Australian news content on Facebook