Facebook has blocked users in Australia from viewing or sharing news on the social media platform.

The move was triggered by Australia joining France and other governments in pushing Google, Facebook and other internet giants to pay publishers for news content.

While Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., announced agreements to pay publishers in Australia, Facebook announced Thursday that it was blocking users in Australia from viewing or spreading news on its platform.

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Facebook says users in Australia can no longer view, share news content

This comes on the heels of Ottawa planning to introduce identical legislation this year and could spell a similar fate for Canadian users.

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Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has made it clear that he intends to introduce a “made-in Canada” plan by summer that includes payment for news content.

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“News is not free and has never been,” he had said earlier this month.

“Our position is clear: publishers must be adequately compensated for their work and we will support them as they deliver essential information for the benefit of our democracy and the health and well-being of our communities.”

While the tech giants have played a positive role in making news accessible, Guilbeault said, “we must address the market imbalance between news media organizations and those who benefit from their work.”

The move, however, while sure to push more money into a struggling news industry, could also create a bone of contention with some of the bigwigs of the tech industry, much like it has in Australia.

What is happening in Australia?

Facing a proposed law to compel internet companies to pay news organizations, Google has announced deals with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Seven West Media. No financial details were released. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. is in negotiations.

Google accounts for 53% percent of Australian online advertising revenue and Facebook 23%, according to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

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Google had threatened to make its search engine unavailable in Australia in response to the legislation, which would create a panel to make pricing decisions on news.

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On Thursday, Facebook responded by blocking users from accessing and sharing Australian news.

Facebook said the proposed law “ignores the realities” of its relationship with publishers that use its service to “share news content.” That was despite Frydenberg saying this week Google and Facebook “do want to enter into these commercial arrangements.”

What does this mean for the public?

Google’s agreement means a new revenue stream for news outfits, but whether that translates into more coverage for readers, viewers and listeners is unclear.

The union for Australian journalists is calling on media companies to make sure online revenue goes into news gathering.

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“Any monies from these deals need to end up in the newsroom, not the boardroom,” said Marcus Strom, president of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. “We will be pressing the case for transparency on how these funds are spent.”

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What is happening in other countries?

Australia’s proposed law would be the first of its kind, but other governments also are pressuring Google, Facebook and other internet companies to pay news outlets and other publishers for material.

In Europe, Google had to negotiate with French publishers after a court last year upheld an order saying such agreements were required by a 2019 European Union copyright directive.

France is the first government to enforce the rules, but the decision suggests Google, Facebook and other companies will face similar requirements in other parts of the 27-nation trade bloc.

File photo shows the logo for social media giant Facebook at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York’s Times Square. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File).

(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Google and a group of French publishers have announced a framework agreement for the American company to negotiate licensing deals with individual publishers. The company has deals with outlets including the newspaper Le Monde and the weekly magazine l’Obs.

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Last year, Facebook announced it would pay U.S. news organizations including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today for headlines. No financial details were released.

In Spain, Google shut down its news website after a 2014 law required it to pay publishers.

Why does this matter?

Developments in Australia and Europe suggest the financial balance between multibillion-dollar internet companies and news organizations might be shifting.

Australia is responding to complaints internet companies should share advertising and other revenue connected to news reports, magazine articles and other content that appears on their websites or is shared by users.

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The government acted after its competition regulator tried and failed to negotiate a voluntary payment plan with Google. The proposed law would create a panel to make binding decisions on the price of news reports to help give individual publishers more negotiating leverage with global internet companies.

In the meantime, access occasionally could suffer: Facebook’s move Thursday initially blocked some Australian commercial and government communications pages.

With files from Global News and AP

© 2021 Global News and The Canadian Press

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