Facebook’s credibility as a source for news should be questioned according to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher

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A composite of Mark Zuckerberg and Josh Frydenberg

Facebook’s credibility as a source for news should be questioned, according to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, in statements escalating the stand-off between the government and the social media giant.

Key points:

  • Facebook has blocked access to news for Australian users
  • In response, the government has questioned the issue of Facebook’s credibility as a source for news
  • The government is bringing in laws that would force Facebook to pay for news that appears in people’s feeds

Facebook banned Australian users from accessing news in their feeds this morning, as the government pursues laws that would force it to pay publishers for journalism that appears in people’s feeds.

The government said it was continuing to talk with Facebook, and founder Mark Zuckerberg has already spoken to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg this morning.

“This morning, I had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook,” Mr Frydenberg tweeted.

“He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward.”

However Mr Fletcher said the government would continue to move ahead with legislating the code.

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Communications Minister criticises Facebook’s decision to restrict Australian news content

He said Facebook’s decision to remove access to news for Australians raised questions about whether people could trust what they saw on the platform.

“Facebook needs to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing,” he told the ABC.

“At a time when there are already questions about the credibility of information on Facebook, that is something that they will obviously need to think about.”

Facebook has been criticised for its role in facilitating the sharing of dangerous political content and health misinformation.

A screenshot of the ABC News page on Facebook showing no posts

Facebook has confirmed the changes have already been applied.(Supplied)

Australians waking up on Thursday found they were blocked from receiving news from publishers’ pages, including news organisations like the ABC, non-profits and academic resources.

“We will be making the point that the position that Facebook has taken means that the information that people see on Facebook does not come from organisations with a fact-checking capability, paid journalists, with editorial policies,” Mr Fletcher said.

The legislation implementing the code passed the House of Representatives last night. The Senate is likely to pass it next week.

Hours after voting for the legislation, Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers took aim at the government.

“This is a mess of the government’s making,” he said.

“It’s up to the government to tell us what’s going on here, what they’re doing to fix it and what it means for real people trying to access news.

“This will have consequences for people who are trying to access health news during a pandemic.”

The media code is designed to ensure media companies are paid fairly for the use of their content on search engines and social media platforms.

Major media companies Seven West Media, Nine, and News Corp have all reportedly struck content deals with Google this week.

The ABC is covered by the proposed code, but is yet to announce a deal.

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