The company’s action comes after months of tension with the Australian government, which has proposed legislation that would force tech platforms to pay news publishers for content.
“I hope in the future, we can include news for people in Australia once again,” Brown added.
Australia fires back
The decision effectively makes good on a threat Facebook made during a hearing in Australia’s senate last month, when the company suggested it could block content in the country if the bill becomes law.
“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,” wrote Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a post on his own Facebook page, which did not appear to have been affected by the restrictions. “They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.”
Officials said the move came without prior warning from the company.
“Facebook was wrong,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters at a press conference Thursday. Frydenberg has been a key liaison between the government and the tech firms on the issue, having met earlier with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to discuss the proposed legislation.
“Facebook’s actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia,” he added.
A brewing debate
Regardless of how Big Tech approaches the situation in Australia, the tussle between governments and these companies has become more pressing as authorities in the United States, Europe and elsewhere consider new laws to keep them in check.
Facebook and Google, meanwhile, have debuted programs to pay for news in recent years, though those services aren’t available everywhere.
Facebook says that given the likely new rules in Australia, the company plans to take its news feature elsewhere.
“This legislation sets a precedent where the government decides who enters into these news content agreements, and ultimately, how much the party that already receives value from the free service gets paid,” Easton said. “We will now prioritise investments to other countries, as part of our plans to invest in new licensing news programs and experiences.”
Google declined to share the terms of the deal, but News Corp’s press release claimed it will receive “significant payments.”
“This has been a passionate cause for our company for well over a decade and I am gratified that the terms of trade are changing, not just for News Corp, but for every publisher,” Thomson said in a statement. “For many years, we were accused of tilting at tech windmills, but what was a solitary campaign, a quixotic quest, has become a movement, and both journalism and society will be enhanced.”
— Angus Watson contributed to this report.