LONDON (Reuters) - Facebook’s move to block all media content in Australia is a staggeringly irresponsible attempt to bully a democracy and will stiffen the resolve of legislators across the world to get tough with the tech giants, a senior British lawmaker said.
“This action - this bully boy action - that they’ve undertaken in Australia will I think ignite a desire to go further amongst legislators around the world,” Julian Knight, chair of the British Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, told Reuters.
“We represent people and I’m sorry but you can’t run bulldozer over that - and if Facebook thinks it’ll do that it will face the same long-term ire as the likes of big oil and tobacco,” Knight said.
The social media giant shocked Australia on Thursday when it blocked all media content from its platform in a stunning escalation of a dispute with the government over paying for content.
The move came after the government of Scott Morrison drafted a law to require Facebook and Google to reach commercial deals with news outlets whose links drive traffic to their platforms, or be subjected to forced arbitration to agree a price.
“If you gain value from carrying trusted sources of information - in the same way as if you gain value for example from music streams - then those that carry those and then sell advertising off the back of that value, should pay for it,” Knight said.
“I think they’re almost using Australia as a test of strength for global democracies as to whether or not they wish to impose restrictions on the way in which they do business, or corrections to the way in which they operate within markets. So, we’re all behind Australia in my view.”
Asked if Facebook and other tech giants had got too big for their boots, Knight said: “That’s the understatement of the century isn’t it?”
“The way in which you tackle the tech giants in a positive way is to look at competition,” he said.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Kate Holton and Alistair Smout
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