18 February 2021

SUBJECT: Facebook

CHRIS KENNY, HOST: The Labor Member for Brand, Madeleine King, thanks for joining us. Madeleine, there seems to be a bit of bipartisanship today in that politicians are pretty angry at what Facebook have done.
MADELEINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES: Absolutely Chris. And I might say I'm a long-time listener, first-time caller, so thanks for having me on your show today. I think what we experienced in the Parliament this morning and certainly when I arrived at my desk is just a sense of shock, I suppose, when you scroll through Facebook and sort of, ‘Oh, Is that still going to be up?’. And ABC Perth, I check regularly the websites of news that's presented in Perth – The West Australian, 6PR and all those local news providers – and they had been taken off Facebook. And when you look a little further I realised the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, our emergency warning service in Western Australia, had had their Facebook page blocked to everyone, it was just astounding.  It just demonstrated the arrogance, in my view of foreign big tech companies seeking to demonstrate to the Australian population and the Government, and all of us in this Parliament, their influence over our information. And it was quite a surprise. I agree with what some of the Ministers have said in the footage you just replayed. It is an extraordinary overreach to suddenly block out information services, health websites and others that provide vital information, and websites and Facebook pages that we've come to rely on over the years that Facebook's been in existence.
KENNY: And Madeleine, indeed it is your first time on the show. Thanks so much for coming on. We welcome as many fresh voices as possible on this program. I want to go to a tweet that you issued in response to this today. I think we can get it up on the screen. You said, ‘So Facebook can instantly block ABC, 6PR, BOM and all these others, and even the fire site in the middle of a bushfire season, but they can't take down murderous gun crime videos’. That's absolutely right. They seem to have the power with the algorithms when they want it. Now, this is going to affect politicians too and the way they are campaigning. You of course have a state election underway in Western Australia at the moment. You'll have MPs from all parties wanting to engage with constituents during the election on Facebook. Probably this is going to be largely limited because of these changes.
KING: You're absolutely right and we did see the WA Liberal opposition leader Zak Kirkup have his Facebook page taken down. It'll come as no surprise to you, Chris, that I won't be voting for Zak Kirkup. In fact, Mark McGowan, the Premier, is my local member in the seat of Rockingham so you probably can guess where my allegiances lie.
KENNY: You must have missed my interview with him the other night because I'm not voting for him either.
KING: Well, you’re probably not a resident so you won’t get a chance. But in any event, it is an affront to democracy to have one politician’s Facebook page taken down indiscriminately and for no reason. Zak has not done anything wrong, he’s doing his job as the WA Liberal leader in the midst of a campaign. And I note that Mark McGowan as Premier has called for Facebook to restore his page. I'm not sure what other Western Australian politicians have had their Facebook pages blocked.  Mine has not been. But it is important that Facebook fix this and make it back to a level playing field on Facebook in the midst of a Western Australian state election campaign.
KENNY: Finally, Madeleine, isn't this just about bargaining? Isn't it the case that Google did deals with commercial media, Facebook might object to the price but in the end there's got to be some amount of revenue they're prepared to share? And this is a bargaining ploy just to try and make sure they pay as little as possible, or do you think they're prepared to keep Australian news off their site forever?
KING: Well, it's hard to tell, and there is a lot of uncertainty in this situation at the moment and that's where we do need a workable code. It doesn't seem to be working at the moment and we hope the Government gets there because that's in the interests of public interest journalism content that you produce, Chris, and your colleagues at Sky. It's important that there is fair payment made for the work that journalists right around this country do. And Facebook didn't start off as a news providing service. It’s social media quite literally, and connections between friends, so as it's evolved it stepped into a space it maybe had never planned to, and it itself hasn't evolved to recognise that some of those services should fairly be paid for and that includes journalism.
KENNY: Madeleine, thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.
KING: My pleasure, Chris. Best wishes
KENNY: Madeleine King is the Federal Labor Member for Brand, Kim Beazley's old seat over there in Perth.