SYDNEY (Reuters) – The following are reactions from academics, politicians and NGOs after Facebook Inc blocked all Australian media content including official information on coronavirus, wildfires and other important services, in an escalating dispute over paying for content.
AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON, on his Facebook page:
“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing.
“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”
WESTERN AUSTRALIA STATE PREMIER MARK MCGOWAN, to reporters:
“They’re behaving more like North Korea than an American company. I would urge the American Government to assist us here in resolving this matter.
“It’s outside the spirit of the relationship between Australia and the United States.”
DAVID CICILLINE, U.S. DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN AND CHAIR OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ANTITRUST SUBCOMMITTEE, on Twitter:
“If it is not already clear, Facebook is not compatible with democracy.
“Threatening to bring an entire country to its knees to agree to Facebook’s terms is the ultimate admission of monopoly power.”
MATT STOLLER OF THE AMERICAN ECONOMIC LIBERTIES PROJECT, on Twitter:
“Facebook deleted huge amounts of important content on a critical piece of social infrastructure in order to threaten a democratic society’s sovereign power.
“The details are complex, the underlying power play is simple.”
WILL BERRYMAN, CEO OF THE ROYAL INSTITUTION OF AUSTRALIA, PUBLISHER OF COSMOS SCIENCE MAGAZINE in a statement:
“We hope that Facebook remedy this quickly, because we’re in the business of sharing important, science-based information at a critical time, and it serves no-one’s interest to have that lost and replaced by unchecked stories.”
CHRIS COOPER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF RESET AUSTRALIA, local affiliate of global nonprofit digital democracy NGO, in a statement:
“Facebook blocking news in the middle of a pandemic, when accurate information is a key plank of the public health response really tells you all you need know about how much (Facebook CEO Mark) Zuckerberg cares about Australian society and cohesion.
“Facebook is telling Australians that rather than participate meaningfully in regulatory efforts, it would prefer to operate a platform in which real news has been abandoned or de-prioritised, leaving misinformation to fill the void.”
MICHELLE ROWLAND, OPPOSITION LABOR PARTY COMMUNICATIONS SPOKESPERSON, to reporters:
“There’s been a lot of analysis done about whether Facebook becomes a much more diminished product and less compelling space to be if news is removed. Australia is the first place in the world where this is occurring, so we are literally a petri dish for this.”
AUSTRALIAN TREASURER JOSH FRYDENBERG, at a televised media conference:
“Facebook was wrong, Facebook’s actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia.”
SAVE THE CHILDREN AUSTRALIA CEO PAUL RONALDS, in a statement:
“Save the Children has come to rely on the platform to communicate with our supporters and members of the wider Australian community. We also use Facebook as an important fundraising tool to reach generous supporters who want to support the world’s most vulnerable children.
“Every minute that our page is down is another minute our message isn’t getting out about the needs of children.”
FIRST NATIONS MEDIA AUSTRALIA CHAIR DOT WEST, in a statement. The group is the peak national body for Indigenous community broadcasters:
“We are outraged that access to First Nations voices has been limited in this way. Never has our media been more vital than during a global pandemic – especially on the cusp of vaccination rollouts.
“First Nations media services are not the same as commercial outlets and should not be negatively impacted by an industry wide response to corporate interests.”
FOODBANK AUSTRALIA CEO BRIANNA CASEY, in a tweet:
“This is UNACCEPTABLE. Demand for food relief has never been higher than during this pandemic, and one of our primary comms tools to help connect people with #foodrelief info & advice is now unavailable. Hours matter when you have nothing to eat. SORT THIS OUT!”
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, in an emailed statement:
“This is an alarming and dangerous turn of events. Cutting off access to vital information to an entire country in the dead of the night is unconscionable.”
TAMA LEAVER, PROFESSOR OF INTERNET STUDIES AT AUSTRALIA’S CURTIN UNIVERSITY, speaking to Reuters:
“There’s been a climate the last two or three years of thinking Facebook isn’t doing as good a job of looking after people as it should and I think, whether intentional or not, also blocking emergency services websites and things like that in Australia is a really bad idea in a time of bushfires and COVID.
“Facebook is 17 years old so it’s a petulant late teenager and behaving accordingly, but when you’ve got global communication as part of what happens on your platform, you don’t get to have a strop (temper tantrum).”
MADELEINE KING, FEDERAL OPPOSITION LAWMAKER, in a tweet, referring to impacted emergency services:
“So Facebook can instantly block @abcperth, @6PR, @BOM_au, @BOM_WA, AND @dfes_wa in the middle of the #bushfire season, but they can’t take down murderous gun crime videos? Incredible. Unbelievable. Unacceptable. The arrogance.”
LISA DAVIES, EDITOR OF THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD NEWSPAPER, in a tweet:
“Well, that’s a tantrum. Facebook has exponentially increased the opportunity for misinformation, dangerous radicalism and conspiracy theories to abound on its platform.”
Compiled by Jane Wardell; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Ana Nicolaci da Costa