Facebook Banned Every News Network in Australia–Who Was in the Wrong?


Garrett Duncan, Contributor

On Feb. 18, Facebook banned every news network, government agency, and government establishment, including Departments of State Health, in Australia.  They have since allowed Australia back onto the network, but why did they do it, and was it in any way justified? (AP News)  The main reason was an Australian news media bill that they wanted to pass.  This bill would require Facebook to pay Australian news groups who posted news on Facebook.  Many may definitely see this as a little unfair, because Facebook didn’t really ask those news stations to post their stories on Facebook. Facebook never did anything to get them to post and was simply allowing them to do so.

The ban made it clear that this is what Facebook thought: They don’t need Australia’s permission for Australia to post on their website.  This news ban was justified in my eyes, because it was basically the Australian government tying to charge Facebook for allowing its news to be broadcasted.  However, News stations were not the only groups affected. (The Guardian) State Health Departments, Emergency Services, Union Groups, Australia Based Charities, and Fire Departments were also banned from Facebook.  These groups had nothing to do with the bill, and were basically banned because they were Australian.  If Facebook had taken it one step further they might as well have banned every group in Australia.  This part of the situation was not justified to me.

On Feb. 23, Facebook reversed its ban.  It seems that Australia changed some of the policies on the bill they were trying to implement.  Now Facebook will have the ability to pick and choose who it pays.  This policy was decided during negotiations between the two, and it’s possible Facebook simply kept twisting Australia’s arm until it finally conceded to this new policy. (AP News) This is good for Facebook’s freedom as a private company, but it also means that Facebook has a new tool with which to decide what news is put on its website. A group that pushes news that Facebook doesn’t like could now have its funding cut. Before, Facebook had to prove if a company or individual violated its terms of service and then ban the company or individual to make sure the opinion wasn’t shared. Now, it can just take away money from any group they want, allowing them to pay only those who agree with their opinions–at least in Australia.

In conclusion, Australia was in the wrong when it tried to force Facebook to pay the news groups that it platformed, but Facebook’s over-reaction and implementation of newfound power make you wonder who was really the good guy in this situation.