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Australia took a stand against Facebook — and got silenced

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Australia took a stand against Facebook — and got silenced

On Wednesday, Facebook launched a capital strike against the country of Australia.

Rather than continue negotiations with Australia regarding paying for the news content circulating on its platform, Facebook decided to pull up stakes. Within hours, the company announced it would “restrict publishers and people in Australia” from sharing or viewing news content. This restriction was also global — Facebook users the world over would now be prohibited from posting links from Australian news publishers.

In other words, a sovereign national government attempted to assert itself against Facebook. And in response, Facebook canceled the country.

The details of this dispute largely concern ad revenue; details that are as complex as they are mundane. But to characterize Facebook’s actions as merely those of a private company engaging in contract negotiations wildly shades the reality of the near-hegemonic power Facebook has amassed over the global flow of information.

Facebook consistently polls as a major news source in countries around the world. In poorer countries like Myanmar, it is virtually indistinguishable from the Internet itself, which is why Myanmar’s government was able to successfully wield the platform to incite a genocide in 2018.

In countries the world over, Facebook has intentionally wound itself around the infrastructure of how societies consume news, transmit information, and speak to one another. It has become a chokepoint for vital information. What is now clear is how easily that power can be weaponized on Facebook’s behalf.

Within hours of Facebook’s announcement, the Facebook pages of Nine, News Corp, and the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corp, which acts as a central information source during natural disasters, were blank. So, too, were the Facebook pages of major regional health departments, where a quarter of the country’s 25 million people regularly gather information regarding COVID-19.

As bushfires rage across the country, the Facebook page of the Bureau of Meteorology was also wiped clean. Regional Department of Fire and Emergency Service offices were prevented from posting emergency bushfire warnings.

The extent of Facebook’s power allows it to threaten a country’s government by holding hostage massive amounts of its social infrastructure. What we are witnessing is hardly a contractual dispute, but a power struggle between a sovereign self-government and a private corporation so dominant it exists as a hegemon in its own right.

It is very much a proxy for how global governments and their citizens are struggling with Big Tech companies who, by controlling the flow of information, are shaping the very boundaries of free and democratic societies.

How this dispute ends, in Australia and the world over, will tell us who rules: is it the people, speaking through their self-government, or the tech authoritarians, who arrogantly wield their power as unaccountable private superstates, to whom we all must yield?

Rachel Bovard is the senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute and a senior advisor to the Internet Accountability Project. 

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Opinion

Benjamin Netanyahu’s reckoning a sour ending for a transformative prime minister

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Benjamin Netanyahu’s reckoning a sour ending for a transformative prime minister

Benjamin Netanyahu showed the opposite of grace as he exited from power on Sunday.

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — June 14, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — June 14, 2021

The Issue: The discussion of law and order at last week’s Democratic debate for mayor.

If any one of these five candidates becomes mayor, it will be the continuation of the de Blasio era (“Crime focus of Dem debate,” June 11).

Many of them are in favor of defunding the Police Department, which is why there is so much crime, and shootings are rising every day.

The people of this city had better wake up when they go to vote. Haven’t we had enough of this? When will it stop? These candidates will not put an end to all this.

Rob Johann

Queens

Thinking that a Republican candidate could not win the mayoral race in New York, I switched my party to Democrat so I could vote.

After listening to all the Democratic candidates during the debate last week, I want to immediately switch my party back to Republican and vote for Curtis Sliwa.

He is our only hope to live in a city that values law and order. He won’t cave to these left-wing zealots who will further destroy our city and our quality of life.

We need a mayor who can bring back the tourists, help our economy and ensure a better life for all of us.

We cannot let the city go into further decline with any of these Democratic candidates. Please, wake up and vote for someone who will lift all of us up.

Susan Green

Manhattan

The fact that Andrew Yang is slipping in the polls is the only good news in the mayoral race.

Eric Adams is talking about crime, while Yang thinks the biggest issues for the city are AI and climate change.

If Yang wins, people will be dreaming of “the good old days” under Mayor de Blasio, formerly thought to be the bottom of the barrel.

Andrew Delaney

Miami, Fla.

I am not impressed by any of the Democratic candidates for mayor of New York City.

What each of them is proposing will cause further crime, divisiveness and decay, raise taxes, make life more miserable for residents and visitors and drive more families out of the city.

What does it take to get through to the New York voter? How bad does it have to get before they abandon a party that is becoming more idiotic with every election cycle?

Take a look at cities and states that have been doing well under Republican leadership and consider voting Republican.

D.M. Diana

Greeley, Pa.

Even Adams is falling for it. He said the “solution” to city violent crime is to reach out to youth and improve mental-health services.

These chic answers are a guarantee that innocent New Yorkers will continue to be murdered, raped, thrown onto subway tracks and maimed.

Get the violent off the streets first. Whether they are criminal or mentally ill, sort that out afterward. Get them away from the rest of us first.

Paul O’Keefe

Union City, NJ

I generally agree with The Post’s endorsements, but I am baffled by its support of Adams for mayor.

His stance on the NYPD changes at his convenience. One day he’s anti-cop and a fierce critic of the NYPD (even though he was employed by the NYPD), and then he switches and comes across as pro-police.

Can New Yorkers elect a mayor who lacks common sense and leadership skills? His suggestion last summer to New Yorkers to settle disputes about illegal fireworks on their own and not call the police was deadly. Shatavia Walls, 33, died as a result.

Adams lacks the moral compass and common sense required to be a winning mayor. The people of New York deserve better.

Susan Berger

Brooklyn

Want to weigh in on today’s stories? Send your thoughts (along with your full name and city of residence) to [email protected]. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, accuracy and style.

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Opinion

Maya Wiley can’t contain her contempt for cops

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Maya Wiley can’t contain her contempt for cops

Maya Wiley again proved what a disaster she’d be as mayor last week, by refusing to commit to not disarming cops.

At the debate, WCBS’s Marcia Kramer pushed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s former legal adviser on what she thought of state Attorney General Letitia James’ suggestion to mandate that law-enforcers use force only as a last resort. Wiley dodged: “Safety is job one, and I’m going to keep New Yorkers safe when I’m mayor.”

So Kramer asked if she’d take guns away from the NYPD, and Wiley dropped her bomb: “I am not prepared to make that decision in a debate.”

Huh? What decision is there to make? It’d be absurd to disarm the city’s cops at any time, let alone one when the bad guys are firing their weapons at an ever-higher rate. Yet Wiley’s refusal to commit is an announcement that she finds the idea attractive.

Not that it’s a real surprise: Wiley is a police-hater who demonized NYPD officers in a campaign ad in which she claimed cops don’t think she and other black New Yorkers “deserve to breathe.”

In reality, the NYPD’s work has saved tens of thousands of black lives in recent decades, by bringing the murder rate to historic lows — though it’s now starting to inch back up because Wiley and her fans imagine that police violence is now the greater threat. Literally: She’s vowed to slash the NYPD’s budget because “trauma” from dealing with cops is a bigger problem than crime.

In reality, most minority New Yorkers want more cops in their neighborhoods, though of course they want the police to do their jobs as politely as possible. Then too, the force itself is now majority-minority.

All of which is why Eric Adams wisely made fighting crime the signature issue of his campaign and why he leads in the polls. But a large and fractured field plus the advent of ranked-choice voting could let a loon like Wiley sneak into the Democratic nomination and likely victory in the fall — unless all sane New Yorkers make sure to leave her entirely off their ballots and choose only pro-public-safety candidates.

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