Zuckerberg vs Frydenberg heads into the weekend as negotiations continue

In the meantime, news sites across Australia continue to be blocked on Facebook.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has again spoken with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, taking to a different social media platform to provide an update.

"Today I had a further conversation with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg," the Treasurer tweeted. "We talked through their remaining issues & agreed our respective teams would work through them immediately. We'll talk again over the weekend.

"I reiterated Australia remains committed to implementing the code."

The code in question is the News Media Bargaining Code. It's been paraded by Frydenberg as the only way to ensure digital giants pay to access Australian news content and as the only way to maintain public interest journalism in the country.

Speaking on ABC AM ahead of his call with Zuckerberg, Frydenberg said he and the CEO have been in constant contact via messages.

"I've expressed obviously my disappointment to Mark yesterday about Facebook's actions which were unnecessary, heavy-handed, and were very problematic," he said.

On Thursday, Facebook decided to make good on its threat to block Australian news on its platform. Frydenberg said such a move was wrong and unnecessary.

During his radio rounds on Friday morning, Frydenberg continued delivering that message.

"These digital companies may be changing the world, but they don't run it," Frydenberg said. "We're trying to succeed where others have failed." 

"There's more at stake than just one or two commercial deals -- this is very much about Australia's sovereignty, this is very much about Australia making laws for Australians."

Appearing on 2GB, Frydenberg claimed to not understand why pages such as those run by government entities or non-profits were collateral damage under Facebook's banhammer.

"For the life of me I can't understand why they'd block NSW Fire and Rescue or the Royal Children's Hospital," he said.

In announcing the ban, Facebook addressed why that was the case, highlighting the applicable legislation does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content.

The legislation states: Core news content means content that reports, investigates, or explains: a) issues or events that are relevant in engaging Australians in public debate and in informing democratic decision-making; or b) current issues or events of public significance for Australians at a local, regional or national level.

During his press conference on Thursday, Frydenberg was asked about that specific claim and responded by saying he did not accept Facebook's interpretation of the definition of news as he believes it is clear the legislation does not apply to government information.

Former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, meanwhile, has said the problem is that Facebook has grown so big that it doesn't respect Australia's laws or democracy. At the same time, he has called for the government to solve the Facebook news ban.

"I mean, they cut off political parties' Facebook sites. This is a challenge which the whole world's going to have to take on," he said. "And like it or not, Australia is now in a fight. And I know people just want this solved and we want the government to solve it."

But the Shadow Minister for Government Services agrees with Frydenberg that Australia can't back down to Facebook.

"Because if we do, then we are surrendering, I think, our national sovereignty," Shorten said.

More Zuckerberg vs Frydenberg

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Facebook is wrong and pulling news is unnecessary, claims Australian Treasurer

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher is concerned the 'North Shore Mums' page is unnecessary collateral in Facebook's ban.

Mark Zuckerberg couldn't convince Aussie Treasurer to back down on new media code

Josh Frydenberg said he's not intimidated by Google's threats to pull Search from Australia, either.

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