Fake News Legislation: Lessons Learnt from the Facebook News Ban on Australia

These past few weeks, Facebook has been showing off its firepower in a battle with the Australian government. On the morning of Thursday 18th February, Australians woke up to a Facebook with no news sources. Australian and international news sources on Facebook, including certain government websites, were blocked to users in the country, as well as Australian news outlets’ profiles being blocked for international users. 

This overnight wipe-out was a protest from the social media giant against the News Media Bargaining Code. This bill would require digital platforms, including social media and search engines, to pay news outlets for the news content they host on their site. This move follows attempts to revive journalism with the purpose of counteracting misinformation online and its interference in democratic processes around the world, which have ultimately led to much polarisation and the discrimination and exclusion of many groups.

This article will outline Facebook’s response and the consequences of the event’s actions, followed by policy recommendations for the United Kingdom in light of this and the growing impact of fast-spreading falsehoods online in our own country.

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Facebook and Australia: Cyber domain in turmoil?

On the morning of the 18th of February, Australians woke up to find that their access to global and local news sites on Facebook had been restricted. The issue of Australia wanting to force Facebook to pay their news institutions for putting their news online has been and still is a hot debate. Nonetheless, people in Australia and the rest of the world were disgruntled to notice how ruthlessly access to certain news sites on Facebook had been restricted. PM Scott Morrison said the following: “Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Furthermore, the ex-Facebook Australian boss Mr Scheeler made the following statement: “I’ve come around to the view that the scale, size and influence of these platforms, particularly on our minds, our brains, and all the things that we do as citizens, as consumers, are just so powerful that leaving them in the hands of a few, very closely controlled companies like Facebook is the recipe for disaster.” 

Continue reading “Facebook and Australia: Cyber domain in turmoil?”