MP warns ‘irresponsible’ Facebook news ban ‘not just about Australia’

18 February 2021, 19:34

Julian Knight
MP warns ‘irresponsible’ Facebook news ban ‘not just about Australia’. Picture: PA

Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, says pulling plug on Australia ‘the worst type of corporate culture’.

Facebook has been accused of using bullying tactics after its decision to ban news on its platform in Australia.

The tech giant is pulling news content from its platform in Australia, over a new law proposal that compels internet firms to pay news organisations.

Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, said the social network’s reaction is “staggeringly irresponsible” and was a message to the world about any country that tries to limit its power.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, the MP said: “This is a crass move, a bullying move … I think it’s staggeringly irresponsible – at a time when we are facing a plethora of fake news and disinformation in relation to the Covid vaccine.

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“This is not just about Australia. This is Facebook putting a marker down, saying to the world that ‘if you do wish to limit our powers… we can remove what is for many people a utility’.”

Australian politicians are considering forcing digital businesses to reach paid-for-news agreements with media companies with draft legislation that could create a so-called News Media Bargaining Code.

The code would create an arbitration panel to set a binding price for news in situations where Google and Facebook do not reach deals with media businesses whose original journalism they link to.

In response, Facebook decided to ban the sharing or viewing of news posts via its platform for users in Australia.

Mr Knight said there needs to be a competition role across the whole social media sector in the UK.

“The problem that I see is that these platforms make enormous sums of money from other peoples’ work, and they aren’t returning any equitable value to them,” he continued.

“I don’t think they [Facebook] are being a good citizen, not just in Australia, but elsewhere … To pull the plug overnight represents the worst type of corporate culture.”

Henry Faure Walker, chairman of the UK’s news media trade group News Media Association, described Facebook as a “school yard bully”.

“Facebook’s sudden ban on news in Australia during a global pandemic is a classic example of a monopoly power being the school yard bully, trying to protect its dominant position with scant regard for the citizens and customers it supposedly serves,” he said.

“The recent deals struck between Google in Australia and news publishers are a welcome acknowledgement of the principle that independent journalism has to be paid for.

“However, Facebook’s actions in Australia demonstrate precisely why we need jurisdictions across the globe, including the UK, to coordinate to deliver robust regulation to create a truly level playing between the tech giants and news publishers.”

By Press Association

More Technology News

See more More Technology News

It is the second outage in a week

Facebook, Instagram and Messenger down for second time in a week

The source code of Twitch was posted online

Twitch data breach: What you need to know

Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp went down in a major outage

WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram back online after suffering six-hour outage

Queen's Baton Relay baton

‘Smart’ baton using cutting-edge technology unveiled for Queen’s Baton Relay

YouTube displayed on a laptop computer

YouTube to remove misinformation videos about all vaccines

Amazon's Astro robot

Amazon introduces home robot alongside new Echo devices

A person using a laptop

Pandemic sparks demand for greater use of tech in public safety – report

An Instagram page

Instagram for children plans ‘paused’, company says


Labour proposes ‘legal duty of care’ on social media firms to stop scams

Stuart and Amanda Stephens

Family of tragic 13-year-old Olly urge parents to take phones off teenagers

Customers enter Apple shop

Queues return to Apple Stores as the iPhone 13 goes on sale

Online fraud

New laws needed to protect people from online scams, Which? warns


Ofcom ‘needs powers to audit tech firms to prevent online harms’

A computer user

Government told to confront tech giants about videos that trigger epileptic fits

Scientist with petri dish

Scientists use AI to help discover new treatment for deadly childhood cancer


Online Safety Bill not suitable for fraud, Google and Facebook suggest