Australia to hold talks with Facebook’s Zuckerberg after block

Australia will hold talks with Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg in a bid to break a legal standoff after the tech giant angered the government by blocking the nation’s news sharing on its platform.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg(Reuters)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg(Reuters)
Published on Feb 19, 2021 04:48 AM IST
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Australia will hold talks with Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg in a bid to break a legal standoff after the tech giant angered the government by blocking the nation’s news sharing on its platform.

“We’ll see if there’s a pathway forward,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a Nine Network television interview on Friday, adding he would talk with the company’s chief later in the day after contacting Zuckerberg about his displeasure about Thursday’s “outrageous” block.

Still, Frydenberg said the government will proceed with its controversial legislation that will force Facebook and Google to pay Australian publishers for news content -- the law is expected to pass parliament next week.

Zuckerberg’s company switched off the main news source for almost one in five Australians and disabled a raft of government Facebook pages carrying public health advice on the coronavirus, warnings from the weather bureau and even the site of a children’s hospital.

In contrast, Alphabet-owned Google -- which also opposes the law -- has negotiated a string of deals in the past week with media companies, in a bid to avoid the arbitration process enforced by the law.

“There is a A$9 billion ($7 billion) online advertising market that is completely dominated by Google and Facebook, and we’re trying to create a level playing field,” Frydenberg said. “The rest of the world is watching us very closely.”

In the U.K., conservative MP and chairman of the Commons media committee Julian Knight called Facebook’s block in Australia “bullying” and the “worst type of corporate culture,” according the the BBC. The U.K. News Media Association said the move showed stricter regulation might be required.


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