Facebook’s arrogant and clumsy overreach has allowed Josh Frydenberg to unleash on the tech giant in defence of Australia’s interests, says Tom Minear.
Facebook’s arrogant and clumsy overreach has allowed Josh Frydenberg to unleash on the tech giant in defence of Australia’s interests, says Tom Minear.

'Facebook’s bullying has backfired'

OPINION

Zuckerberg versus Frydenberg didn't seem like a political match-up that favoured Australia's Treasurer.

But when Mark ripped news content from Australian users last week - and took down the pages of charities, health departments and emergency services in the process - Josh didn't appear alarmed. He looked thrilled.

Up to that point, Facebook was negotiating deals with news outlets to pay for their content, which would be required under the Treasurer's proposed new laws. However, when the legislation passed swiftly through the lower house, the social media giant's founder got involved - and pressed the nuclear button.

Zuckerberg was worried Frydenberg's laws would set a global precedent that would cost his company billions of dollars. Why else would he personally intervene in such an issue on the other side of the world?

His drastic action was plainly an effort to bully and intimidate Frydenberg and Scott Morrison. Somehow, Zuckerberg didn't understand that the government - not to mention ordinary Australians - would see it exactly for what it was.

The arrogant and clumsy overreach gave Frydenberg the upper hand, and allowed the government to unleash on the tech giant in defence of Australia's interests. Who would ever side with Facebook over family violence support groups, hospitals and rocker Jimmy Barnes?

It took less than a week for Facebook to back down.

The concessions Zuckerberg extracted from Frydenberg made sense, including formalising that Facebook could avoid the new laws if it struck deals of its own accord with news outlets. But, as Google had showed, that was essentially already the case.

News will now be restored to Facebook, and Frydenberg's legislation will sail through.

Meanwhile, in the eyes of Australians - both in Canberra and beyond - Zuckerberg has seriously damaged Facebook's reputation. The rest of the world has noticed, too.

tom.minear@news.com.au

Originally published as How Facebook's bullying has backfired


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