Facebook should be ‘sent-packing’ from Australia for stifling free speech after it banned news content, according to Nationals Senator Matt Canavan. The US based social media company blocked Australian users from seeing and sharing local news in response to a new law to make tech giants pay media companies for the content they use.
Facebook’s move contrasted with Google, which in recent days has brokered deals with media groups, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
The drastic move by Facebook has stopped Australians from accessing vital information in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, with even government and political party pages also caught up in the ban.
When users go on reliable Facebook news accounts, including the ABC, 7News and Daily Mail Australia, they are met with a message saying there are ‘no posts’ available – hiding news content which is visible to those overseas.
Even the Australian Greens Facebook page, as well as the Bureau of Meteorology and domestic violence charities, was also banned from posting updates – even though the party is not a news organisation.
Nationals Senator Matt Canavan said he did not agree with this stifling of free speech.
‘We already have laws that stop foreigners interfering in political debates. Facebook at least appears to be acting against the spirit of those laws,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Any overseas companies that try to unduly control the free speech of Australians should be sent packing.’
The strong words come as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg slammed Facebook’s actions as ‘unnecessary and wrong’.
‘They were heavy handed,’ he said on Thursday afternoon, ‘and they will damage its reputation here in Australia’.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said Mark Zuckerberg is behaving like North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Mr Joyce said the decision meant Facebook resembled North Korea which tightly controls which news and information its citizens can access and relentlessly publishes propaganda supporting the leadership.
‘Journalism is essential for the functioning of democracy. If you don’t want journalism then go to North Korea,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘This is a North Korean policy agency being pursued by Facebook,’ he added.
Mr Joyce said the government should consider issuing licences that grant permission for social media companies to operate in Australia to make sure they act in the national interest.
‘If they leave then so what? Another platform will be set up,’ he said.
Mr Joyce added: ‘When I look up at the press gallery in Parliament or when I walk around Tamworth, I don’t see a Facebook bureau or a Google bureau – so if they want to benefit from journalism done by others then they need to pay for it.
‘It took 10,000 years of human experience to gain the liberties we enjoy today and the investigatory endeavours of paid journalists is a crucial pillar of that. To have journalism you need real presence and advertising.
‘If Facebook wants to embezzle the process they can return to their garage and table tennis.’
Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce (pictured) called on the federal government to consider issuing licences that grant permission for social media companies to operate in Australia
Minister for Health Greg Hunt said slammed the social media giant for denying Australians access to fundamental health, mental health and vaccination information.
‘Facebook has taken steps, which are unprecedented and reprehensible,’ he said.
‘Unacceptable in a democracy such as this and an abuse of their power.’
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud was adamant the government would fight back against Facebook.
‘But let many say this: The Australian people and its government will not be bullied by some big tech company that is putting people as lives at risk and putting profits ahead of people,’ he said.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher (pictured) insists the government ‘will be proceeding’ with the new law which sparked the Facebook ban
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.
Mr Fletcher said the government ‘will be proceeding’ with the new law, which passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday night and looks set to pass the Senate within days.
‘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,’ he told the ABC on Thursday morning.
But Mr Fletcher didn’t rule out tweaking the code after continuing discussions with Facebook.
Treasurer Josh Treasurer spoke to CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday morning and revealed the pair were trying to find ‘a path forward’.
‘Let’s allow those discussions to continue and, at the same time, let’s continue with the process of legislating the code,’ Mr Fletcher said.
Facebook’s decision means its nine million daily users in Australia can no longer view any news – even from foreign websites.
Australian Facebook users can’t even share content they find interesting with friends and family, and those overseas can’t read or access any content from Down Under either.