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Government lashes back at Zuck by pulling advertising spend on Facebook

And so, the plot thickens. The Federal Government has pulled potentially millions of dollars in advertising spend from Facebook, lashing back at the social media platform’s block on Aussie’s access to news.

In response to Facebook’s new-sharing ban on Australia, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham has stated that the ban would be extended across the government.

“My expectation is that we will pull back from advertising while they undertake this type of terrible activity of pulling down sites inappropriately, seeking to exert power or influence over our democratic systems,” Birmingham told Radio National.

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Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Birmingham also said that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had “had further conversations with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg,” and have urged the platform to acknowledge their inappropriate behaviour.

As reported by the ABC, “the government spent $42 million on digital advertising in 2019-20. The ACCC has reported [that] around one-quarter of all online advertising expenditure in Australia goes to Facebook, indicating the move may cost Facebook millions.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said there were other promotional channels like television, radio, and newspapers that the government was using to spread messages about the vaccine and that his department would not be using Facebook for advertising campaigns.

“Some [of the funds allocated for Facebook advertising] may be reallocated temporarily…We will continue to post on that particular channel [Facebook], we just won’t be boosting [posts],” Hunt explained.

Scott Morrison has also stated that the law against which Facebook is pushing back had been discussed in a phone call with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “There’s a lot of interest in it… People are looking at what Australia is doing,” Morrison said to the media.

Despite the escalating nature of the feud between the tech giant and the Federal Government, other major players in the digital market — including Facebook itself — released a standardised industry code on Monday aimed at combating the spread of misinformation (a key concern amongst Australians with the ban of news-sharing on Facebook.)

“The code has been adopted by Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Redbubble, and TikTok and [was] developed by Australian internet and social media industry group DIGI, with requirements for signatories to develop and implement measures which aim to reduce potential exposure of users to misinformation and disinformation,” according to the ABC.