The ACCC Isn’t Happy About Facebook’s Threat to Ban News for Australian Users

sunscreen zuck Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives onstage to speak about the new Facebook News feature at the Paley Centre For Media on October 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty Images)
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Australia’s consumer watchdog isn’t having a bar of Facebook’s response to its draft news media bargaining code. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has hit out at Facebook, criticising the social media giant’s ‘threat’ on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning Facebook threatened the nuclear option of banning local and international news for Australian users on both its Facebook and Instagram platforms.

The reason? Being forced to negotiate with Google and Australian news publishers over paying for news.

The company’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Will Easton, said in a blog post that the code would “hurt, not help the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news media sector.”

What did the ACCC think of Facebook’s threat to ban news for Australian users?

ACCC Chair Rod Sims responded to Facebook’s suggestion in a statement, calling it “ill-timed and misconceived.”

“The draft media bargaining code aims to ensure Australian news businesses, including independent, community and regional media, can get a seat at the table for fair negotiations with Facebook and Google.”

Sims said that ACCC’s intention with the code was to level the playing field between news publishers, Facebook and Google.

“Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses,” Sims said.

He also cited the importance of the news media during in Australia during the pandemic.

“We note that according to the University of Canberra’s 2020 Digital News Report, 39% of Australians use Facebook for general news, and 49% use Facebook for news about COVID-19.”

At the end of the statement, Sims throws a bit of shade at both the giant’s responses to the draft code by calling for civility.

“As the ACCC and the Government work to finalise the draft legislation, we hope all parties will engage in constructive discussions,” he said.