File picture: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
File picture: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Facebook unfriending of Australian news outlets: What led up to this dramatic move?

By Reuters Time of article published Feb 19, 2021

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Sydney - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed on Friday to press ahead with laws to force Facebook Inc to pay news outlets for content, saying he had received support from world leaders after the social media giant blacked out all media.

Here's a timeline of how the events unfolded in recent years.

July 2017 - Australia's competition regulator recommended a voluntary code in its Digital Platforms Inquiry to address bargaining power imbalances between major digital platforms - Google and Facebook - and media businesses.

Dec 2017 - The watchdog -- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) -- said it would investigate whether U.S. online giants Facebook and Alphabet Inc's Google have disrupted the news media market to the detriment of publishers and consumers.

July 2019 - Australia said it would establish the world's first dedicated office to police Facebook and Google as part of reforms designed to rein in the U.S. technology giants.

Dec 2019 - The Government directed the ACCC to work with both the news and digital platform businesses to develop a voluntary code.

April 2020 - the government directed the ACCC to draft a mandatory code after the regulator advised that the businesses were “unlikely to reach voluntary agreement” and COVID-19 exacerbated the pressures faced by Australian media sector

July 2020 - The ACCC released draft legislation for the media bargaining code.

July 2020 - Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the country would force Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay Australian media outlets for news content.

Aug 2020 - Google criticised proposed Australian antitrust laws saying its free search service would be "at risk" and users' personal data could be shared if it is made to pay news organisations for their content.

Sept 2020 - Facebook said it would stop Australians sharing news content on its platforms if a proposal to make it pay local media outlets for their content becomes law.

Sept 2020 - The ACCC says Facebook will be "weakened" if it stops Australians from sharing news so the company can avoid paying for content under proposed laws.

Dec 2020 - The News Media Bargaining Bill 2020 was introduced to Parliament with the intent to force major digital platforms – Google and Facebook – to pay Australian media companies for use of news content.

Feb 2021 - Google strikes deals with media companies including NewsCorp to pay for journalism.

Feb 2021 - The news media bargaining code, which has bipartisan support, clears house of representatives.

Feb 2021 - Facebook blocks news feeds in Australia in a surprise escalation of the dispute with the government, wiping out pages from Australian state governments and charities as well as from domestic and international news organisations.


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