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Facebook says it will block news in Australia if media royalty plan becomes law

FILE - This July 16, 2013 file photo shows a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Beginning Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 U.S. Facebook users who post about voting may start seeing an addendum to their messages — labels directing readers to authoritative information about the upcoming presidential election. It's the social network's latest step to to combat election-related misinformation on its platform as the Nov. 3 election nears — one in which many voters may be submitting ballots by mail for the first time. AP Photo/Ben Margot, File

Facebook says it would block news publishers and people in Australia from sharing news on Facebook and Instagram if a proposal to force the U.S. tech giant to pay local media outlets for content becomes law.

The Australian government said in July it would require tech giants Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay for news provided by media companies under a royalty-style system that is scheduled to become law this year.

Read more: Australia to Facebook, Google: You must now pay for news content

“This is not our first choice – it is our last. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector,” Facebook Australia managing director Will Easton said in a statement published on Tuesday.

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Following an inquiry into the state of the media market and the power of the U.S. platforms, the Australian government late last year told Facebook and Google to negotiate a voluntary deal with media companies to use their content.

After those negotiations failed, Australia’s competition regulator drafted laws that it said would allow news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work.

Read more: Facebook erred by failing to remove post calling for armed civilians: Zuckerberg

Easton said the proposed legislation misunderstands the dynamic of the internet and will damage news organizations.

Australia’s Ministry for Communications did not immediately respond to questions on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya and Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Christopher Cushing)

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