A former Facebook Australia and New Zealand chief executive officer has slammed Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘ugly’ decision to block news in Australia, and called upon fellow citizens to delete the app out of protest at the move, reported The Australian.

Stephen Scheeler also spared no epithets in denouncing the motivations of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“It shouldn’t have happened. But unfortunately it did. But there’s no good answers. If you’re Rio Tinto and you blow up an Aboriginal sacred site, there are consequences, people lose their jobs. But at Facebook nobody ever loses their jobs,’ he was quoted as saying.

Earlier on Thursday, Facebook banned Australian news outlets from sharing content on the platform, inadvertently also blocking charities, government agencies, and smaller businesses, including those related to coronavirus pandemic response and emergency services.

Accordingly, as Australians visited their favoured Facebook news accounts they came upon a message that ‘no posts’ were available. Even overseas news was hidden, with international news organisations still posting on Facebook, but the nation’s users unable to see the content or share it.

“Over the years I get more and more exasperated. For Facebook and Mark it’s too much about the money, and the power, and not about the good. Imagine if a Chinese company for example had done this, we would be up in arms,” said Scheeler, who resigned from Facebook in 2017.

The former CEO who has since opened his own consultancy firm adding:

“If you wanted a glaring example of why Facebook needs more regulation, this is it.”

As he voiced concerns that the move by the social media giant could generate a surge in ‘fake news’ and ‘misinformation’ on the platform, Scheeler warned that Facebook currently wielded more power than global governments.

“There’s no ballot box where you can vote against Mark Zuckerberg. And in fact, even if you’re a Facebook shareholder, your vote carries no weight,” he said, urging Australians to delete the app to send a signal to the platform.

As some users rushed to scrub their profiles in protest, the hashtags #DeleteFacebook and #BoycottZuckerberg began trending on Twitter.

​Some Australia entrepreneurs announced they would refrain from paying Facebook for advertising until news content had been fully restored.

World-First Media Bargaining Law

Facebook – Australia’s most popular social media platform– had been irate over a proposed media bargaining law which passed the House of Representatives on 17 February and looks set to pass the Senate within days.

The government on 20 April 2020 requested the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to develop a mandatory code of conduct to address perceived bargaining power imbalances between local news media businesses and digital platforms such as Google and Facebook. The suggested legislation would ostensibly force the giants to negotiate payments to outlets for use of their content.

However, the two companies attempted to persuade Canberra to change its course, threatening to proceed with a partial pullout from the Australian market.

Mark Zuckerberg personally reached out to officials as part of the crusade against the country’s “News Media Bargaining Code” legislation, but failed, Australian Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg revealed, as quoted by 7News. Facebook executives feared giving in to the law could set a global precedent and force it to pay to distribute news.
Google, while similarly threatened to pull its search engine from Australia, recently backtracked after striking deals with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment, writes the outlet.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison went on Facebook to slam the tech giant’s decision to block Australian news on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a statement by Facebook read that the proposed law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content”.

“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,” stated Facebook.