Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has spoken to Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg overnight, confirming the two will talk again today to “find a pathway going forward”.
It follows Facebook blocking the pages of Australian news sites, and preventing millions of Australian users accessing news content online in retaliation to the Government’s news media bargaining code.
Mr Frydenberg confirmed this morning he had since had another conversation with Mr Zuckerberg.
“Mark Zuckerberg and I have been in contact yesterday,” he said on ABC.
“We spoke yesterday morning but then we were subsequently in contact and we agreed to talk later this morning.
“We’ll see where those discussions go and we can find a pathway going forward.”
Mr Frydenberg called Facebook’s actions unnecessary.
“They were heavy handed,” he said.
“They’ve generated a very strong reaction here in Australia and this code is going to be very important in terms of protecting Australia’s national interest but also protecting public interest journalism in this country.”
He said the Government’s resolve was “very firm” during this “revolution in the digital economy”.
“We are seeking to pass that legislation through the Senate next week, but there’s something much bigger here at stake than just one or two commercial deals,” he said.
“This is about Australia’s sovereignty.”
WORLD WIDE REACTION
Eyes from across the world are on Australia as it faces down the tech monolith.
One senior British MP said the idea of cutting of Australia’s news sites from the platform during a global pandemic was “staggeringly irresponsible”.
Julian Knight, who also chairs the British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said the work needed to be “in this fight” with Australia to combat the abuse of power by Facebook.
“We need to make sure they prevail,” he said on ABC.
“If Australia goes the wrong way now, if it finds itself bullied into submission then frankly we’re next.”
However, he said he didn’t think the UK would go down the same path as Australia in legislating a similar news media bargaining code.
The UK Government issued a statement on Thursday night stressing the need for “accurate news and information from a range of sources” to be accessible during a global pandemic.
“We encourage Facebook and the Australian government to work together to find a solution,” a spokesperson said.
British company The Guardian Media Group also released a statement cautioning Facebook against the blocking of news outlets
“in order to have a healthy functioning democracy”.