Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Source: Michael Reynolds/EPA.
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  • Facebook has blocked Australian users from reading and sharing news content on its platform as of this morning
  • The move takes a stand against proposed laws that would make the tech giant and Google pay local media outlets for content that appears on their websites
  • Facebook argued that the media bargaining code “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers”
  • Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he had a “constructive discussion” with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday morning, adding that that conversations regarding the media bargaining code would continue
  • Google has also threatened to withdraw the use of its search engine in Australia in an effort to avoid what it called “unworkable” laws

Facebook has blocked Australian users from reading and sharing news content on its platform as of this morning.

The move, announced in a blog post on Wednesday, takes a stand against proposed laws that would make the tech giant and fellow Silicon Valley behemoth Google pay local media outlets for content that appears on their websites.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” Facebook said in the post.

“It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he had a “constructive discussion” with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday morning, adding that conversations regarding the media bargaining code — which is set to be voted on in parliament this week — will continue.

“(Zuckerberg) raised a few remaining issues with the government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward,” he said in a tweet.

Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, said in a tweet that the “relationship” between Facebook and publishers is not as voluntary as it seems, adding that most media organisations feel obligated to be on Facebook due to its dominance.

Google has also threatened to withdraw the use of its search engine in Australia in an effort to avoid what it called “unworkable” laws, despite a number of recent content deals for its News Showcase platform, including with Seven West Media and Nine Entertainment.

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