By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – Social media platform Facebook faced a chorus of voices calling for a boycott after it blocked all news content in Australia amid a legal dispute with the government there.
Backlash to the action grew on Thursday when “Delete Facebook,” “Boycott Zuckerberg” and “Facebook We Need To Talk” trended on other social media websites, according to the New York Post.
Facebook on Wednesday blocked users in Australia from viewing or sharing news content after Australia moved towards enacting a new law that requires social media companies to share advertising revenue they generate from news stories with publishers.
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” said William Easton, head of Facebook Australia and New Zealand.
“It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”
The Australian government has responded to the move with a vow to not back down.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the government will push ahead with the plan to enforce payment rules on tech giants, which was first announced last April.
“Facebook needs to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing,” he told public broadcaster ABC News.
Facebook's scrubbing of news articles also led to several pages on the website being deleted erroneously, according to the New York Post. They include the Immunization Foundation of Australia, a group that seeks to improve immunization rates among babies, as well as the pages for four Australian health agencies.
Other news outlets that share names with Australian counterparts, such as the British Daily Telegraph, were also removed.
Matt Stoller, the Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project, sharply criticized Facebook's actions, calling it a "threat to democracies worldwide."
"Australia was first to suffer from the explicit wrath of this monopolist, but any other country could be next," Stoller said in a statement.
"In light of Facebook choosing to destroy the distribution of news in Australia, it is now time for policymakers elsewhere to recognize the emergency of big tech authoritarianism, and to act in concert with the scale of the threat. Big tech must be broken up and regulated, as quickly as possible," he added.