Some commentators believe that Facebook called Australia's bluff. You may find out right away that Australia is not bluffing.
The platform's irresponsible and chaotic implementation of the Australian news ban appears to have brought the country – citizens and politicians of all walks of life – and governments from around the world together to back the resolve of the Australian government.
Stephen Scheeler, former executive director of Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, wrote in The Nine Newspapers that the company took a huge risk and bet that “an aggressive hard line with a middle power like Australia is a hard one. The news gets to the Rest of the world sent to take regulation back. "
But as he says there is an alternative scenario. “When you pull the pants off a government in front of the world, you have no choice but to interfere. If you destroy the news feeds of 13 million citizens as a bargaining chip, raise the stakes … So you're facing a stalemate between the two Australia and Facebook could be the catalyst for real global reform. It could be that future historians of the internet see this decision as the moment the world straightened up and took serious action to hold big tech accountable to society. "
So far, this second scenario is playing out.
It's hard to imagine a better way for a platform to anger a nation and destroy the remnants of its own reputation than blocking health and hospital locations in a pandemic, emergency service locations in a state that recently cracked down on bushfires and places with Groups, charities and community organizations have fought countless welfare battles to avoid payments under a new media negotiating code designed to close the power imbalance between media companies and the major technology platforms.
It's hard to imagine how more like an arrogant international monopoly that doesn't take a country and its legislative proposals seriously than to implement a ban without warning and with ham-fisted bugs that a radio station can bring back to its page when you see yourself as a gift shop list, users can still post news articles if they are posted as a link to a tweet. This is a company so confident of its bullying ability that it was willing to hit the big "Destroy News in Australia" button without even considering the consequences for a moment.
Before long comparisons were made about how easy it had been for Facebook to close down real, factual messages, and how difficult it was to close out "fake" messages and misinformation, or even turn off the livestream for a massacre or for questions to be asked how a company solely dedicated to "connecting the world" can so gleefully separate factual news from an entire nation and leave the most powerful links to comedy websites and news-related comedy sites Satire.
Facebook's answer that the width of The ban was due to the definition of messages in the proposed code, makes no sense as the code is not yet required by law, and the company immediately started reversing some of the blocks when they were posted by outraged users.
So far the government has been able to strengthen its resolve. The prime minister specifically says that threats are not a good way to deal with his government.
Google, the other media giant forced to negotiate and arbitrate with news companies under the Code, found a workaround.
To avoid setting the legal precedent for paying for messages that appear in a search, deals of a similar magnitude have been entered into with Australian media companies big and small for stories to appear in his showcase service. The government achieved its goal of getting the platform to pay the news companies and Google avoided the precedent. The government reserves the option to enable the text of the law and force payment for messages that appear at any time in search to ensure that the voluntary deals are not undermined over time or denied to small and medium-sized publishers once the needs of the great end of the city are fulfilled.
It is right that this agreement, made by the power of competition law to level the playing field between news companies and the powerful monopoly platforms that they cannot handle, does not address the problem of media ownership concentration in Australia.
But even if, like me, you have deep concerns about the matter (this was one of the reasons we founded Guardian Australia eight years ago) and even if you firmly believe that the government should act to increase media diversity, As I do, it doesn't take too much thought to understand the danger of setting a precedent in which a government uses competition law to decide which individual publishers it wants to give preference to and which it doesn't.
Lobbying News Corp. likely helped convince the Australian government to act on the recommendations of the competition regulator, and News Corp – as the dominant news publisher in the country – will take significant advantage of the code, which is applied proportionally across the Australian publishing landscape. This is an uncomfortable reality that has led some commentators to make the bizarre suggestion that other Australian publishers should make themselves less competitive by turning down Google's offers. That strange idea could only make the problem worse.
US scientist Jeff Jarvis writes on Medium and on the small Australian website Crikey, which was one of the first Australian publishers to sign a showcase deal with Google, and argues that Guardian Australia is "in the league with the devil (News Corp) fallen "by aiming to negotiate the exact same deal with Google as with the company publishing it and most other media outlets in Australia. He also claims that the payments from Google are not going to benefit journalism. He does not provide evidence to support this claim, but if he is correct it would be exposed by the review that the Treasury Department is required to conduct at the end of the first year of application of the Code. Under Guardian Australia's business model (we have no shareholders and we work solely to provide journalism) there is really nothing to spend it on.
Facebook now has two options. It could do business in a manner similar to Google, either voluntarily or through formal negotiation and arbitration under the law, or it could be located outside of Australia.
Facebook argues that journalism has a "minimal" benefit to its business in that only about 4% of the content its users see is in their news feed. According to the logic of the code, this means that much lower payments are expected than from Google.
An ongoing Facebook news ban is a cause for concern, especially for small community news hubs, First Nations news services, or youth-oriented or regional news services – the types of sites that rely heavily on Facebook. However, it also shows the dangers that you are too dependent on a third party who is willing to pull the plug overnight without warning. Some of these organizations are already thinking about how to get back to basics and diversify the way they distribute their work. Should Facebook stay outside, there is a strong case for the government to help them.
The gamble of Facebook is that Australia cannot live without it. Imagine the consequences if we prove we can.