Josh Frydenberg and Mark Zuckerberg to talk over Facebook news ban

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg are set to talk over the Facebook news stand-off. Pictures: Shutterstock, Sitthixay Ditthavong
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg are set to talk over the Facebook news stand-off. Pictures: Shutterstock, Sitthixay Ditthavong

The Government and Facebook are to talk later today in an attempt to find a way back from their stand-off after the social media company blocked news from its platform.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said this morning that he was going to talk to Facebook founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg.

But he warned that difficulties remained. "This is not easy," he said on ABC radio.

"If it was easy, other countries would have succeeded but they haven't."

The Treasurer said his government would remain firm on the issue. He said the dispute was about Australia's ability to make rules for Australia: "This is very much about Australia's sovereignty".

Industry experts who analyse to traffic to Australian news sites say there was a substantial fall after Facebook closed off access through its pages.

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University quoted research by Chartbeat, a respected technology company which provides data and analytics to global publishers: "Unfortunately, Facebook's disappearance has resulted in a hit to publishers' traffic numbers: when Facebook traffic dropped off, overall Australian traffic did not shift to other platforms.

"This drop has been seen most dramatically in traffic to Australian sites from readers outside of Australia: Because that readership was so driven by Facebook, overall this outside-Australia traffic has fallen day-over-day by over 20 per cent.

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"We also see a large drop in traffic from readers within Australia."

Chartbeat said that just before Facebook made the change, "over 15 per cent of visits from within Australia were being driven by Facebook. Traffic steadily fell from there".

Treasurer Frydenberg rejected an idea floated by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull that the better way of raising money from the social media companies was to tax their profits on advertising and redistribute the money to "public interest journalism".

"We've got a very constructive way forward and a very considered way forward," Mr Frydenberg said.

This story Government sets talks with Facebook first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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