BRITISH politicians have accused Facebook of adopting “bully boy” tactics after it announced a blanket ban on Australian news.
The tech giant made the move in response to new legislation, voted for in the Australian House of Representatives, compelling internet companies to pay news organisations for their content.
This would give news companies a share of the immense profits accrued by tech giants – the likes of Facebook and Google – who have seen astronomical gains in market share while traditional news platforms’ share has been in decline.
British politicians said the drastic move by the social media site shows a "staggering lack of respect" for the democratic processes.
Julian Knight, Conservative chairman of the digital, culture, sport and media select committee, said Facebook's actions would raise important digital policy questions for the UK.
"These bully-boy tactics are absolutely crass and irresponsible, particularly at a time of global pandemic when people need trusted news sources”, he told The Times.
"It's Australia first, who will be next?".
Calls have also been made for Nick Clegg, formerly Deputy Prime Minister of the UK who became head of global affairs and communications at Facebook in 2018, to "rethink this position".
Mr Knight added: "If I was Nick Clegg, I would be doing more than appearing in videos saying "I'm sorry", I would really consider my position at this point.
"This action by Facebook shows a staggering lack of respect for democratic processes."
In addition to harsh political scrutiny, there has been furious backlash among Facebook users in response to the news.
Trending hashtags include #DeleteFacebook and #BoycottZuckerberg, as many users gave their final farewell before deleting their profiles.
Tutorial videos titled “How to delete Facebook account permanently” have been circulating and users have been posting screenshots of their account deactivation notifications.
Among those deleting their account in protest is Former Deputy Mayor of Maribyrnong, Victoria, Megan Bridger-Darling, who said told followers they could find her on "Twitter, email, phone”, and, in a tongue in cheek aside, “occasionally in the news", she said.
"If Facebook won't support our journalists, I won't support them," she continued.
"I choose reliable news sources over a platform that benefits and enables anti-vaxxers, klan members, doxxers, fear-mongerers, and extremists to peddle their messages entirely unopposed."
Australian PM Scott Morrison also took a swipe at the platform using its own jargon: saying it was a shame that Facebook decided to “unfriend” the island nation.
He remained resolute in his stance on the issue, however, confirming that Australia wouldn’t be “intimidated” by the tech giant.
He went on to say: "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 posted on Facebook.
"These actions will only 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.
"They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.
"We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament."