As John reported on Thursday, Facebook banned the entire nation of Australia from sharing links to news sites based on a new law that the Aussies are considering putting in place. If enacted, it would force Facebook to pay a fee to the news organizations being linked every time anyone posted such a link. It was a preemptive move that certainly looked heavy-handed, but as John noted at the time, it’s not entirely unreasonable.
As the Associated Press notes this week, however, this “power move” on the part of Mark Zuckerberg may wind up backfiring on him. What he’s really accomplished here is a demonstration of just how much power Facebook has over public access to journalism. The Australian government, rather than backing down, may wind up taking the war right to Zuckerberg’s doorstep. And they may not be alone.
That power play — a response to an Australian law that would compel Facebook to pay publishers for using their news stories — might easily backfire, given how concerned many governments have grown about the company’s unchecked influence over society, democracy and political discourse. But it’s still a startling reminder of just how much power CEO Mark Zuckerberg can wield at the touch of a figurative button.
“Zuckerberg’s flex here shows how he can disrupt global access to the news in a heartbeat,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a social media expert and professor at Syracuse University. “No company should have this much influence over access to journalism.”
Facebook’s move means people in Australia can no longer post links to news stories on Facebook. Outside Australia, meanwhile, no one can post links to Aussie news sources such as the Sydney Morning Herald.