Australia blocked: Facebook as the playground bully?

Facebook has blocked all news pages and many government pages in Australia in response to a planned law that requires it to pay for content from media companies that is distributed via its platform. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is now appealing for international support in showing the tech giants what they can and cannot do. Most of Europe's press is clearly on his side.

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Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

The next round: democracies versus tech giants

Facebook's action is scandalous, Hospodářské noviny rails:

“British MPs have urged their colleagues in Australia not to give in. And we in the EU should also back them. A victory for Facebook against the sovereign parliament of a democratic country would mean a fundamental weakening of the democratic principles that have already been undermined by large technology companies and their social networks. So far, the struggle between democracies and new economy giants has mainly taken place at the level of debates over regulations, particularly those enacted by the EU. Now we've entered the phase of a practical conflict.”

Postimees (EE) /

This fight concerns us all

Postimees is rooting for Canberra:

“The Australians' goal is to create fair rules in the competition between technology giants and local companies. Estonia has the same interest. The European Union needs to put fair taxation of the digital economy back on the agenda. If member states think beyond selfish economic interests, a solution will be possible. Facebook's response to Australia shows what happens when there is no competition. It's high time we understand that something that is for free can end up being very expensive. ... Australia is fighting for all of us.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The front is crumbling

A small breakthrough has already been achieved, La Repubblica is pleased to report:

“The Australian government's hard line - which Europe would do well to emulate - is achieving its first results. The opposing front in Australia has become factured. The Internet giants - who fought side by side for months - are now divided between those who seek dialogue (Google) and those who insist on waging a war (Facebook). Facebook is reaffirming its no to publishers who are demanding payment for content shared on the social network. It is even going so far as to block posts, triggering an outraged reaction worldwide. The hashtag deletefacebook is trending on Twitter.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Facebook calling the media's bluff

Australian media got what they deserve with the news blackout, The Spectator says:

“This is the corporate bosses of news organisations trying to have their cake, eat their cake, and have someone else give them money for both. There is no real basis for saying that letting people share content and links - for free - damages newspapers: it is a bit like saying pub landlords should pay newspapers if their punters discuss a news article at the bar. But if that's the argument publishers are making, they have to stick to it: outlets like Facebook can choose to pay up, or prevent news articles being shared on their turf. Demanding that your stories be shared and that you should be paid for the privilege is nothing more than a shakedown.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Even stricter laws are needed

Facebook's strategy could backfire, the Wiener Zeitung argues:

“In protesting against a relatively harmless regulation, the platform is giving the EU and the G7 countries good arguments for introducing much more far-reaching laws than those under discussion in the Canberra parliament. Antitrust law experts have a name for what Facebook is doing: abuse of a dominant market position. Interestingly, Google is taking a different tack and has agreed to pay 63 million euros to French publishers. And while only a few weeks ago the search engine giant threatened to pull out of the Australian market because of the bill, publishers are now getting money. Unlike Facebook, Google has understood that governments don't like being blackmailed.”