Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hit back at Facebook over its decision to block news in the country, saying the company’s actions were “as arrogant as they were disappointing”.
The social media site last night cut off access to news pages and links in Australia in retaliation to draft new laws that would force tech giants to pay for the use of publishers’ content.
A number of government health and emergency services were also shut down — something Facebook later said was a mistake.
Morrison this morning launched an attack on the platform over its decision to “unfriend” Australia.
“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them,” he said.
“They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.”
The prime minister vowed not to be intimidated by Silicon Valley tech giants, pointing to a previous threat by Amazon to withdraw from the country following a dispute over harmful content.
The bitter war of tit-for-tat comes amid a global reckoning over social media sites’ failure to pay for the use of news.
Australia is the first country to table laws that would force payment. Google has threatened to withdraw its search engine from the country if the new legislation is passed.
But MEPs are reportedly considering similar rules as part of two new EU laws designed to crack down on internet platforms.
Both Google and Facebook have been frantically inking deals with news publishers in recent weeks in a bid to stave off looming regulation.
Google yesterday secured a partnership with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns the Times, Sun and Wall Street Journal, as well as a string of news outlets in Australia.