Charities condemn Fb for ‘assault on democracy’ in Australia | Fb
Facebook board members, who have compared some to an internal “Supreme Court”, have been asked to speak or resign after the platform shut down numerous media outlets and key public information sites during a battle with the Australian government.
The social media giant has suspended pages – including those from government agencies and state health departments prior to the national coronavirus vaccine launch – in a showdown with officials over a new law that would force it and other platforms to post links to news content to pay.
This constituted an “attack on democracy,” warned an open letter from dozens of prominent charities, media and campaign groups around the world, including Save the Children Australia, Hope not Hate and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.
“Access to reliable, high-quality information is an essential part of our democracy and our society,” the letter said. When you take it down, “there is room for misinformation and hate speech to fill the void that remains.”
Facebook can wait up to a week before some of the pages of hundreds of non-media organizations affected by its news ban are unblocked, while vaccination content and misinformation remains widespread.
Facebook has long argued that self-regulation is more effective than state regulation in response to calls for control of its sprawling social media empire, pointing out agencies like the board of directors.
But this body is slowly moving to only judge past controversies so it can’t impact fast-paced events, said Maria Ressa, co-founder and CEO of Filipino news site Rappler, which was targeted for her work by President Rodrigo Duterte.
She also “has no say in the design of the platform itself, where the problem is,” she adds. As a member of the “Real Facebook Oversight Board”, a campaign organization that calls for greater accountability, she also supports the open letter.
The crisis in Australia made clear to them the problems with the current model. Rappler is working with Facebook to search the website for facts that are being produced in the Philippines. But because the ban prevents Australian users and publishers from viewing or sharing any news, the country’s large Filipino diaspora is effectively vulnerable to misinformation, she said.
“What made me angry was that not every single news organization from the Philippines is visible in Australia. But government propaganda is visible in Australia, ”she said. “Essentially, for Filipinos and the Filipino diaspora, you will see the lies, but you will not see the fact-checking.”
This shows a massive divide between people on Facebook who are committed to the site’s security and support for democracy and those who work on the business side and deal with Australian law, she said.
One executive has since apologized for removing health and government pages, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Facebook is back at the negotiating table. However, the company has not publicly announced any change to its objection to the proposed law, which executives say sets “an impractical precedent”.
In contrast, competing tech giant Google has signed more than 50 deals with Australian publishers to showcase their journalism in its News Showcase product.
Guardian Australia is the youngest media company to reach an agreement just days before the Senate debate on the federal government’s news media code.
“Quality journalism is both a public good and an extremely valuable asset for publishers and platforms, as evidenced by this deal,” said Dan Stinton, Managing Director of Guardian Australia, of the deal.
“We also congratulate the Australian Government on developing the digital platforms and code of negotiation for the news media. This world-leading piece of legislation provides the regulatory environment necessary to achieve fair trade deals that will support Australian journalism in the future.”
The news media code would require Google and Facebook to negotiate payment for content from news publishers. If no agreement can be reached, an arbitrator will decide the financial terms of the deal.