LONDON - Facebook's move to block all media content in Australia is a staggeringly irresponsible attempt to bully a democracy and will stiffen the resolve of legislators across the world to get tough with the technology giants, a senior British lawmaker said. Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of Britain's House of Commons, spoke to Reuters. On Facebook's move in Australia: "It is certainly deeply disturbing that Facebook is taking this step particularly during a global pandemic when trusted news sources and reaching audiences is so important for authorities. I think its deeply irresponsible to have to taken this action at this particular time. "What they're doing is the equivalent of taking their ball home when it comes to acting against a government's legislation in this way. It throws a whole idea of Facebook cooperating with legislators around the globe out of the window. "They've made a great deal since the DCMS inquiry into fake news and disinformation and Cambridge Analytica which obviously first really refocused the world's attention on Facebook in its use of data and the way in which it dominates our social media landscape along with the likes of Google and Twitter. "They've since then said that they would be responsible and that they would cooperate with legislators. This doesn't look like cooperation to me. This looks like they're taking their ball home with them. Frankly, I think they need to rethink it very quickly." "The idea of Facebook effectively cutting off any news source at this particular time when people need trusted information is staggering actually in its lack of care. I have to say that I think it's clear to me that in this decision. Facebook is failing to be a good global citizen." "We represent people and I'm sorry but you can't run bulldozer over that - and if Facebook thinks it'll do that it will face the same long-term ire as the likes of big oil and tobacco because basically they are the super companies of today." SHOULD LEGISLATORS FORCE FACEBOOK TO PAY FOR NEWS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM? "Yes, I think there is a case. If you gain value from carrying trusted sources of information - in the same way as if you gain values for example from music streams - that those that carry those and then sell advertising off the back of that value, should pay for it. It seems to be pretty logical. "If they are effectively monetizing other people, then they should pay for it, in my view." "But to be honest with you, this action - this bully boy action - that they've undertaken in Australia will I think ignite a desire to go further amongst legislators around the world. Because the truth is: if they're not willing to cooperate, if at the first opportunity they decide to take an action such as this, and turn off people's news streams, then what frankly is the point of cooperation if that is the case? "They therefore should face stern legislative action and be brought to heel that way rather than through the softly-softly approach which they said they wanted." "I think they're almost using Australia as a test of strength for global democracies as to whether or not they wish to impose restrictions on the way in which they do business, or corrections to the way in which they operate within markets. So, we're all behind Australia in my view." "If they are forced to give way to Facebook on such matters, then Facebook will just feel emboldened and that it can actively go against legislation that is introduced elsewhere. So, this is a real test case." HAVE FACEBOOK AND THE TECH GIANTS GOT A LITTLE TOO BIG FOR THEIR BOOTS? "That's the understatement of the century isn't it?" "The way in which you tackle the tech giants in a positive way is to look at competition and exactly how they are acting in certain markets... The competition route is often the route to ensure they operate as better citizens withing the global market." REUTERS
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