Australian government’s tussles with big tech companies are showing no real signs of abatement. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already managed to get Google to agree on the posposed news media bargaining code. And now, Morrison is ready to take on another big tech company- Facebook.
The face off between the Scott Morrison government and big tech started when Canberra expressed its desire to make social media giants pay news outlets for publishing stories online. Soon, Google came up with threats to turn off key services including its search engine in Australia in response to the legislative proposal. However, a “constructive” chat between between Morrison and Google’s global head Sundar Pichai resolved the issue. Now, the spotlight has turned to Facebook.
Facebook, which doesn’t want to pay news publishers for their content, has suddenly blocked all news on the social media platform. This is a desperate bid by the social media giant to dominate the will of the Scott Morrison government so that the news media bargaining code never sees the light of the day.
Yet, the Morrison government is standing its ground. It has no plans of relenting in face of the pressure that it is facing from Facebook. In fact, the Australian government has made it clear that the “heavy handed” move will not stop the Parliament from passing landmark legislations that compel big tech companies to pay compensation for journalism.
Morrison took to Facebook and wrote that the social media platform’s show of strength would “confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them”.
Australia’s Prime Minister added, “Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing.” Morrison is making it clear that it is the elected governments which will set the ground rules. He said, “They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.”
Australia’s Prime Minister has a clear message for Facebook and other big tech companies- “We will not be intimidated by big tech seeking to pressure our parliament.”
The entire Morrison cabinet has been pushing back against the latest move by Facebook to block news content. Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, for instance, warned that companies working in Australia “need to comply with the laws passed by the elected parliament of this nation”.
Interestingly, the face off between big tech and the Scott Morrison government comes at a time when when democracies across the world are contemplating some sort of action to rein in the unbridled powers that big tech companies enjoy.
After the Capitol security breach, big tech companies de-platformed former US President Donald Trump unceremoniously. This soon raised concerns about how big tech has grown way too big. During elections, big tech companies get to set the broad tone and narrative. And even after polls, big tech wants to decide who won and who deserves to be silenced.
As such, Scott Morrison realises how big tech’s dominance can be an inherent threat to democracy. And just as he had led the global outrage against Chinese authoritarianism, Australia’s PM is also leading the free world’s backlash against concerns of big tech dominance.
In fact, Scott Morrison is looking to interact with his close friend, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other world leaders in a bid to mobilise global support in Canberra’s ongoing faceoff with big tech companies. As per The Sydney Morning Herald, Morrison has already spoken to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about Facebook’s plans to block news links in Australia.
Australia’s PM said, “I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues. We simply won’t be intimidated, just as we weren’t when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.”
Google tried to lock horns with Morrison, but it was the latter which prevailed. Stakes seem even higher with Facebook, and Morrison only seems to be getting tougher. As such, the Morrison government and Facebook are locked in a face off which the latter cannot even hope to win.