March 6, 2021

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Australian vaccine adverts will not appear on Facebook amid news dispute with social media giant

3 min read

Adverts for Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine won’t appear on Facebook, as the country continues with plans forcing the social network and other tech giants to pay for links to news content.

While Australia’s government is undertaking a wide-ranging communication campaign to raise awareness of the vaccine and encourage residents to recieve it, Facebook is not among the online platforms adverts will appear on, Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Facebook blocked people in Australia from viewing, sharing and posting news content earlier this week in retaliation to the country’s plans to pass its proposed media bargaining code into law.

The measure, which also prevents international Facebook users from viewing or sharing links from Australian publications resulted in the accidental temporary blocking of online resources including a suicide prevention organisation, weather and emergency service pages.

“On my watch, until this issue is resolved, there will not be Facebook advertising,” Mr Hunt told the Australian Broadcasting Corp over the weekend, according to Reuters.

“There has been none commissioned or instituted since this dispute arose. Basically, you have corporate titans acting as sovereign bullies and they won’t get away with it.”

While there was capacity to place paid-for advertisements onFacebook, there were no current plans to do so, he added.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced plans to hold further discussions with the company after the news ban came into place last Wednesday evening UK time.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had called Facebook’s decision “to unfriend Australia….as arrogant as they were disappointing”, said that Facebook had “tentatively friended us again” on Saturday, but did not provide further details.

Canada is considering following in Australia’s footsteps and adopting the same model, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said this week.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. Morrison has said he expected a "sensible outcome" to his government's plans to make digital platforms pay for journalism after Facebook threatened to block Australian publishers and individuals from sharing news stories. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP)
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pressing ahead with the law despite resistance from Facebook (Photo: AP)

While Australia’s approach requires Facebook and Google to pay news companies a ‘fair price’ for links hosted on their platforms or agree a price through binding arbitration, France has adopted a secondary approach, requiring tech giants to negotiate prices with publishers.

“We are working to see which model would be the most appropriate,” Mr Guilbeault told reporters on Thursday, adding: “Canada is at the forefront of this battle … we are really among the first group of countries around the world that are doing this”.

He said that he had met with representatives from Australia, Finland, France and Germany to discuss the likelihood of forming a united group of around 15 member countries with respects to dealing with tech giants on issues such as news, according to The Globe and Mail.

“It was the first ministerial meeting where we jointly started talking about what we want to do together regarding web giants, including fair compensation for media. We believe that there’s real strength in unity on that,” he said.

“I’m a bit curious to see what Facebook’s response will be. Is Facebook going to cut ties with Germany, with France, with Canada, with Australia and other countries that will join? At a certain point, Facebook’s position will be completely untenable.”

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