SYDNEY—Lawmakers from the U.K. and Canada criticized Facebook Inc.’s ban on Australian users sharing news articles, and they said the tech giant could attract more scrutiny around the world as authorities grow increasingly concerned about its market power.
Facebook removed news from its platform in Australia in response to legislation that would effectively compel it to pay traditional media companies for content. The Australian legislation, supported by media companies including News Corp , owner of The Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., has been widely watched globally and could offer a model for other countries that want to require big tech companies to pay publishers for their content.
Facebook previously warned that it could remove news if the legislation progressed, but its announcement still caught many Australians by surprise. Users in Australia woke up Thursday morning to find that the Facebook pages of Australian and international publishers appeared blank. Those who tried to post news links got a message saying the post couldn’t be shared. The tech giant also removed the pages of some government agencies, which it later said was inadvertent.
Facebook says the proposed law misunderstands the relationship between publishers and tech companies, and that it had little choice but to restrict news sharing rather than accept a law that ignores reality. The company says that publishers benefit because links on Facebook send users directly to news websites, and that publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, unlike with search engines, which take content from other websites.
In the U.K., Julian Knight, the lawmaker who chairs the digital, culture, media and sport committee, tweeted that Facebook’s move to restrict news was deeply irresponsible. The news blackout also called into question Facebook’s commitment to be a good global citizen, he said in the tweet.