Facebook blocks news content in Australia

Facebook on Wednesday said it will block news content from being read and shared on its platform in Australia, drawing a line in the sand against a proposed Australian law that would require it and Google to pay the country’s news publishers for content.

The move stands in contrast to a recent trend among other tech giants, who have begun to negotiate with news outlets after years of being blamed for decimating their businesses by luring away advertisers.

The proposed law would effectively force Google and Facebook to strike deals with Australia’s media companies or have fees set for them.

Facebook said the proposed legislation (quote) “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between itself and publishers, arguing that news outlets voluntarily post their article links on Facebook, which allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue.

Google has sided with Facebook, and threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia to avoid what it called “unworkable” content laws - even as it has secured deals with publishers in the U.K., Germany, France and other countries for its new curated Google News Showcase product.

On Wednesday, Google reached a landmark global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, owner of the Wall Street Journal and two-thirds of Australia’s major city newspapers, to develop a subscription platform and share advertising revenue.

Facebook, which has long been criticized for allowing misinformation to flourish on its platforms, now finds itself in a peculiar position of also blocking the news media that has provided a fact check on false content.

The Australian government said it plans to vote on the legislation in the coming weeks.