Meta says it may block news from Facebook in Australia

Facebook owner Meta opens new tab is considering blocking the platform’s news content in Australia if the government forces it to pay licensing fees, a company representative said at a parliamentary hearing on Friday.

Meta’s regional policy director Mia Garlick told lawmakers “all options are on the table” when asked if the company would block Australians from sharing news content to avoid paying fees.

“There are a lot of channels from which people can get news content,” Garlick told the research.

He said Meta was waiting for Canberra to decide whether it would apply an untested 2021 law that gives the government the right to set the fees US tech giants pay media outlets for links.

The comments are the strongest indication yet that Meta would take the same hardline approach in Australia that it did in Canada in 2023, when that country introduced similar laws.

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Meta reached agreements with Australian media companies including News Corp opens a new tab and Australian Broadcasting Corp when the law was passed in Australia, but has since said it will not renew those agreements beyond 2024.

It is now up to Australia’s deputy treasurer to decide whether to intervene and force… Facebook pay for informative content. The deputy treasurer has said that he is still collecting tips, but that Meta seems to respect the law only when it suits him.

Australia’s two largest free-to-air broadcasters, Nine Entertainment opens a new tab and Seven West Media opens a new tab, meanwhile said this week they were cutting jobs, citing lost revenue once their deals with Meta expire.

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Asked on Friday whether blocking Facebook news in Australia would amount to circumventing the law, Meta’s Garlick said taking such action would be complying with it.

“We work to comply with all other laws (taxes, security, privacy),” he said. “Simply, compliance would be slightly different regarding this law if it were enacted in its entirety.”

Garlick defended Meta’s processes for Australians to complain if they believed the company was spreading misinformation or harmful scams, although he said all of its content moderation centers were in other countries.

When asked about Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, who is suing Meta for showing fraudulent cryptocurrency ads with his face, Garlick said the company had processes in place to detect and stop scams, but “there are many challenges.”

How can Meta call itself an advertising company when “some ads sell lies,” asked Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

“We have policies, systems and tools in place to do everything we can to prevent those ads,” Garlick said.

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