In response to consultants, Fb’s transfer to limit Australian publishers was a “nuclear choice”
According to Peter Lewis, director of the Responsible Technology Center at the Think Tank Australia Institute, Facebook is trying to exercise its monopoly power in Australia by preventing publishers from posting content on Facebook Pages.
He stated that the social networking giant built on the offer of free access while downplaying and making money from the collection of user data.
“I think they are strengthening their monopoly in this part of the digital world,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.
“It starts a conversation in Australia about what alternatives might be – there is no obvious corporate alternative,” he said. “Redesigning the public digital infrastructure is a long game that cannot be played overnight.”
Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Twitter on Friday that he had “more talks” with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and that they would speak again over the weekend. He said the government and Facebook would work to resolve ongoing issues.
Facebook said Wednesday that Australian users will no longer be able to view or share news content. International users will also not be able to access Australian news content on their platform.
The decision was made in response to a media negotiating code that is expected to come into effect by the Australian Parliament, which will prompt Facebook and Google publishers to display their news content on their products such as the Facebook news feed and Google search.
The tech company’s decision was made by politicians and others alike, especially after major Facebook pages related to government, public health and civil society were caught in the restrictions.
“Facebook went with the nuclear option, and I think it’s the whole idea of, you kill one to raise many,” said Lewis.
He described the current situation as a “slow car accident”.
“Google approached the cliff a few weeks ago and threatened to shut down Search in Australia. Facebook jumped the cliff. Where does it all go, who knows?” Lewis said, adding that the world was watching this play out.
While Facebook opted for the nuclear option, as they had previously threatened, Google was doing prominent deals with major Australian media organizations.
The Australian competition watchdog last year highlighted the tremendous power of both companies in advertising space.
In a report from September it said Out of 100 Australian dollars ($ 77.26) that advertisers spent online in 2019, Google received 53 Australian dollars, Facebook 28 Australian dollars, and only 19 Australian dollars went to other websites and advertising technologies.
No major inconvenience for users
Facebook said that news accounts for less than 4% of the content people see on their news feed and that the business gain from news for the company is minimal.
Suranga Seneviratne, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney’s School of Computer Science, said Wednesday’s restrictions won’t have much of an impact on most Australian Facebook users.
“If you only think of news, I think that we as users may not feel it that much and as a platform Facebook will not see a significant drop in sales,” he told CNBC on Thursday.
Some experts said that Facebook’s accidentally blocking non-news websites in Australia could have serious repercussions – both in terms of reputational damage and commercial problems with Australian advertisers.
Others pointed out that the social networking giant is “shooting itself in the foot” by removing the primary source of fact-checked information on the Facebook platform at a time when misinformation is a serious problem.