Minister not surprised by Facebook claims

Matt CoughlanAAP
Paul Fletcher says tech companies have opposed almost all efforts to regulate social media.
Camera IconPaul Fletcher says tech companies have opposed almost all efforts to regulate social media. Credit: AAP

Australia's communications minister has declared expectations about social media companies' user-protection obligations have shifted amid fresh allegations against Facebook.

Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen told a US Congressional hearing the company put profits above welfare.

The whistleblower said the social media behemoth was aware of harm caused to some teenagers using Instagram and was dishonest about efforts to counter misinformation.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said companies had opposed almost all of the federal government's efforts to regulate the sector.

"Without commenting on the detailed allegations, it is not greatly surprising to me," he told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

"With just about every change that we have sought to make in our time in government there has been resistance from the tech giants."

Mr Fletcher said community expectations were changing about companies' obligations to ensure users were protected from harm.

"This implied special treatment that the internet industry has successfully got away with for some time, I think that's no longer acceptable to the community," he said.

"It's certainly not acceptable to the Morrison government."

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Ms Haugen had painted a false picture of the company.

"We care deeply about issues like safety, wellbeing and mental health," he posted.

"It's difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives."

Mr Fletcher likened global vehicle standards to safety standards online.

"Ultimately a sovereign government must assert the right to impose legal requirements to protect the safety of citizens," he said.

"If you're bringing a service to Australia, whether it's in the internet field or anywhere else, you need to comply with the laws of the land."

Separately, American news giant CNN disabled its Facebook page in Australia after the High Court ruled publishers were legally responsible for defamatory comments posted below their stories.

"The decision by CNN is perfectly understandable," Mr Fletcher said.

The minister, who noted the judgment applied to all Facebook users, said attorneys-general were looking at defamation law reform.

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