Voiceover: It's happening in Sydney. You'll hear it on drive with Jim Wilson.
Jim Wilson: If you've been online today, you'll notice that Facebook is standing by its decision to ban all Australian news content on its platform despite widespread condemnation. We had special coverage of this story yesterday after Mark Zuckerberg and his big tech cronies shut down pages that were never and have never pretended to be news pages. Sites like Queensland, ACT, South Australian Health, Fire and Rescue New South Wales, the Bureau of Meteorology as well. They even stopped charities and not for profits like Oxfam and Save the Children. But the kicker, the decision that really got my goat was they moved a mute on the Where is William Tyrrell Page? The lost toddler. This page has 109,000 likes and is vital for keeping up the fight to find that innocent little boy. But according to Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies at Facebook, it had no place online. It's disgraceful. On the line is federal Senator Andrew Bragg, who was a member of a committee which looked into the power of Facebook and Google in Australia. Senator, welcome back to Drive.
Andrew Bragg: Jim, how are you?
Jim Wilson: I'm good, thank you. I mean, you've seen this first hand. Were you were you surprised at all by Facebook's actions yesterday?
Andrew Bragg: Well, Facebook now is the home of fake news and cat photos. I mean, effectively, by taking off credible news and overreaching into taking off community pages like the William Tyrrell one, means that there's basically not much of value other than a few cat photos.
Jim Wilson: I know Facebook has reinstated some of the pages I mentioned earlier, but they shouldn't have been affected in the first place. I mean, it took the William Tyrrell page alone, Senator, was down, I think, for hours upon hours. Again, you shake your head.
Andrew Bragg: Well, I think they would have reflected upon this overnight, Jim, because the reaction, I think, has been savage. And there's just no need to take down health information. Community information like this. It had nothing to do with news. I mean, the fact that they don't want to pay journalists for their product is bad enough. But, you know, taking away community service offerings like the Tyrrell page is just ridiculous.
Jim Wilson: Okay when you when you were on the Senate committee? You'd grill Facebook. Australia's CEO, William Easton. What were your impressions of Facebook as a company?
Andrew Bragg: Well, I wish it was the Australian CEO, but they didn't bother to send Australians. They basically had someone up in Singapore talking to us about Australian law, which reminded me very much of Rio Tinto having someone in London trying to negotiate with the PKP people after they blow up the Juukan Gorge. So I have to say, I didn't think Facebook did a particularly good job during the Senate committee hearings. And so I'm not surprised that yesterday's ham-fistedness.
Jim Wilson: You also said, yes, some of us just it's mind blowing and I think that I'm glad I don't reckon they were expecting this sort of backlash from the Australian public?
Andrew Bragg: Well, I mean, the thing is, they have so much power. I mean, these big tech companies are like utilities. They just like banks or telcos or energy companies. And yet there is a very low regulatory burden on them. We're putting in place some pretty basic laws and they're basically saying they want to leave the country. I mean, three weeks ago, Google said they were going to leave the country and now they're doing massive media deals. Yesterday, Facebook was switching off community information. So who knows what they're going to do tomorrow? I think the reality is a very arrogant. It's important that Australia stick to its policy of making these companies pay for journalism like you're providing now on 2GB.
Jim Wilson: Do you think there'll be a compromise, Senator, between the Government and Facebook, like there has been with Google?
Andrew Bragg: I mean, we have not compromised with Google. I mean, we've stuck to our guns. Our laws are going through the parliament as we speak. And Google have decided that they would start paying for journalism, which is which is very welcome credit where credit's due. I think in terms of Facebook, I mean, there's no way we're going to change our policy. We will proceed with our laws and it's up to Facebook what it does. Now, if the net result is that there's no news on Facebook anymore, that's a problem for Facebook. People want to get news. They can go directly to 2GB, Apple, they can go to the ABC or The Guardian or whatever, and that would change people's behaviour.
Jim Wilson: Yeah, I noticed a number of anti-vaxxer posts and COVID-deniers are still allowed to publish on the site. I mean, it is just, it's so inconsistent their approach.
Andrew Bragg: Well, there's two real big problems that remain with these big tech platforms like Facebook. There's so much defamatory information out there and there's also a lot of information which incites hatred or violence, and they've just left it on there. So I think Facebook is the home of fake news. As I say, the loss of your news and their platform really will diminish Facebook itself. They are basically publishers. They control what they show. They turn people on and off. And, you know, over the next years, there'll be more regulation in this tech space, not less. And it's important that Australia holds the line against these tech giants because, you know, our democracy is more important than the profits of a tech company.
Jim Wilson: What do you reckon the Treasurer said to Mark Zuckerberg this morning?
Andrew Bragg: I think they've had a few funny conversations, actually.
Jim Wilson: Funny or robust?
Andrew Bragg: Well, I think both. I mean, Josh is you know, he's he's got a great, warm approach, but he's very firm. And I think he's done a great job by bringing these laws through already and getting Google to pay up. And I know Josh is not for turning on this, so he'll stick to his guns.
Jim Wilson: Well, good. We've got to draw a line in the sand and that should be paid for material. And as I said, some of those charity sites and also that William Tyrrell page that should never have been taken down in the first place, Senator, thanks for your time this afternoon.
Andrew Bragg: Thanks to Jim, great to chat.
Jim Wilson: Good on you. That's Senator Andrew Bragg, who was a member of the committee which looked into the power of Facebook and Google in Australia.
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