Australia

A One-Two Punch for Master of the Universe, Mark Zuckerberg

Australian News App Surpasses Facebook in App Store as World Leaders Form United Front Against Tech Giant.

Irked by Australia’s proposed media bargaining law which seeks to force Facebook and Google to share revenue generated from news content with the relevant publishers, Facebook made the decision last Thursday to block Australians from viewing or sharing news on their platform. For some period of time, residents even lost access to pandemic, public health and emergency services websites. I posted about this here.

The social media giant may live to regret this choice. On Friday, a homegrown news app from Australia Broadcasting Company (ABC) took the number one spot on the iOS download chart in the country. Facebook’s position? #4.

Journalist Casey Newton, who reports on big tech and democracy, wrote: “Features include: reverse-chronological feed; less misinformation than the leading brand; and the ‘stories’ here don’t disappear after 24 hours! I think it could have a chance.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Friday, “The idea of shutting down the sorts of sites they did yesterday, as some sort of threat — well, I know how Australians react to that and I thought that was not a good move on their part.”

Morrison also warned Facebook that other countries may follow his lead. There is every indication this is true.

“There is a lot of world interest in what Australia is doing. That’s why I invite, as we did with Google, Facebook to constructively engage because they know that what Australia will do here is likely to be followed by many other Western jurisdictions,” he added.

The Associated Press reported that the Australian leader discussed “the Facebook dispute with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday. Morrison was also discussing Australia’s proposed law with the leaders of Britain, Canada and France.”

Last week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault called Facebook’s move “highly irresponsible,” according to Fox News. The report said:

Guilbeault warned that Canada would be next in making sure Facebook paid for news content from Canadian publishers. Guilbeault is charged with drafting legislation in the next few months that would require Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay up.

“Canada is at the forefront of this battle … we are really among the first group of countries around the world that are doing this,” Guilbeault told reporters.

Guilbeault said he recently met with government ministers from Australia, Finland, France and Germany to hammer out a common front with respect to Google and Facebook, the Globe and Mail reported.

Having (arguably) just participated in swaying the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is no doubt feeling omnipotent these days.

Still, his action against Australia last week may have been a serious miscalculation. Betting that Morrison would yield to his company’s pressure, he never dreamed he would face resistance, let alone a growing coalition of world leaders who won’t be held hostage his coercive demands.

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