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Facebook alleged to have blocked Australian news pages to influence new law

A Facebook whistleblower has come forward to claim that the blocking of Australian news pages in early 2021 was a negotiating tactic used to influence the News Media Bargaining Code.

The News Media Bargaining Code was designed to strengthen Australian local news publishers by requiring social media companies to pay publishers for news content posted on their sites. The legislation imposed obligations on social media platforms, such as Facebook, and Australian news media to negotiate content-supply deals in order to balance bargaining powers between the parties. Digital platforms initially argued that the legislation may curb the online dissemination of news and media, although, slowly began entering into agreements with certain Australian media companies throughout late 2021. However, Facebook was not as forthcoming and banned several news media outlets on its platform, including governmental agencies, health care providers, scientific outlets, and parody news.

Facebook’s whistleblower has now alleged through leaked documents that these bans were purposefully orchestrated to strongarm the Australian government into granting Facebook a favourable deal. This is important as the Australian government agreed to amend the News Media Bargaining Code if Facebook entered into enough deals with local media outlets. Ultimately, Facebook was not designated under the Code.

Former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chair, Rod Sims, is now arguing that the decision to designate Facebook should be immediately revisited by the Treasurer.

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