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‘We Won’t Be Intimidated’: Pm Slams ‘Arrogant’ Facebook

Facebook’s shock news ban was “arrogant” and the federal government won’t be “intimidated by BigTech”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

In a post on the platform, Mr Morrison slammed Facebook for not only wiping the pages of media outlets, but government organisations too.

“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Mr Morrison said.

He said the company’s actions, which came as parliament votes on the News Media Bargaining Code, confirmed the fears of many countries that BigTech companies believed they were bigger than governments and that “rules should not apply to them”.

“They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it,” he said.

“We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code.

“Just as we weren’t intimidated when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.”

Read Also: Facebook Blocks Australians from Viewing, Sharing News Content

He said Facebook should “work constructively with the Australian Government”. Health Minister Greg Hunt labelled Facebook’s move an an “assault” on Australia and on people’s freedom.

Mr Hunt slammed the social media giant’s during question time saying it was an “abuse” of power.

He said it came at a time when it was critical to share health and vaccination information.

“Facebook has taken steps, which are unprecedented and reprehensible. Unacceptable in a democracy such as this and an abuse of their power,” Mr Hunt said.

He said The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, MS Australia, the Danilla Debilba Indigenous Health Service and the Kids Cancer Project, among others, had all been hit by the content ban.

“This is outrageous and unacceptable. We expect that Facebook will fix these actions immediately and never repeat them again,” he said.

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“This is an assault on a sovereign nation. It is an assault on people’s freedom and, in particular, it is an utter abuse of big technologies market power and control over technology.”

He said “apparently” Facebook’s original mission was to “bring the world closer together and allow people to help share and express what matters to them”.

He added: “perhaps it is time to put people over profit.”

‘PUBLIC SAFETY’: FACEBOOK NEWS BAN ‘UNNECESSARY’

The Australian Government was given no notice that Facebook would ban news, charities and government organisations on its social network even though founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on the same morning the company started deleting information for Australians.

Mr Frydenberg, who called the bans “wrong” said talks with Mr Zuckerberg today and over the weekend were “constructive” and Australia would not back down from introducing the news code passed by in the House of Representatives last night.

“Facebook is in no doubt that we’re committed to the code but also we would like to see them here in Australia,” he said. “But their actions today were unnecessary and wrong.”

Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Facebook’s removal of news content and government information had gone far beyond what it had originally threatened and had become a “public safety issue”.

Australia’s peak real estate body also criticised the move, with a number of “major real estate portals, trade media and real estate member organisations” affected by the ban.

“REIA is currently assessing the situation and the impact on the industry as a whole as Facebook has been an important channel to connect with Australian’s looking to buy and rent property,” Real Estate Institute of Australia president Adrian Kelly said.

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Mr Kelly said despite Facebook’s crackdown, he was confident real estate marketing would continue to reach customers.

“COVID has proven that estate agents are very quick to adapt to new technologies and that will be the case in the current environment,” he said.

The Australian Academy of Science, Science and Technology Australia, and the Australian Science Media Centre came out against the ban in a joint statement.

Science & Technology Australia CEO Misha Schubert said the move would deny the public access to important scientific and health information.

“For Facebook to block access to the feeds of trusted science and health organisations in Australia during a pandemic and bushfire season is irresponsible and dangerous,” Ms Schubert said.

“At a time when the company is taking steps to tackle misinformation on its platform, it’s concerning it has chosen to silence some of this nation’s leading scientific voices.”


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