But the dramatic showdown between Facebook, the Australian government and the country’s publishing industry also reflects an escalating strategy by the social network to more aggressively go after its antagonists — whether rival tech giants or regulators around the world.
That offensive strategy is led by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his top policy adviser, former U.K. deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. It has involved, in recent weeks, publicly attacking rival Apple as anticompetitive for actions it took to limit Facebook and other app developers’ use of data and taking out above-the-fold ads in major U.S. newspapers pushing its vision for Internet regulation.
In a company blog post, William Easton, Facebook’s managing director for Australia & New Zealand, said the government left the social network with a “stark choice” — comply with a law that ignores the immense benefits Facebook brings to the news industry, or stop allowing news content.
“With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter,” he wrote.
Facebook’s brazen move could easily backfire. Facebook is facing new regulation and legal scrutiny globally, and the move is a clear demonstration of the harm that can be caused by a company wielding such enormous power over free expression.