Facebook has begun blocking the sharing of news and other links on the platform by users, news organisations, and other organizations in Australia. As Australia is set to create the new ‘media code’ as its law, the announcement comes as it seeks to correct the negotiating imbalance between newsrooms and digital giants such as Facebook, Google. If the proposed law was passed, the social media giant threatened to do this and it followed up on the same thing.
The proposed law in Australia argues that both platforms should pay for the links they use to news publications. This enables news publishers to pursue individual monetary deals with Facebook and Google and also seek arbitration if they feel that it is not fair to offer a deal.
We have taken an incredibly difficult decision today to limit the availability of Facebook news in Australia. The fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers is what the proposed law introduced in Australia fails to recognize. Contrary to what some have suggested, Facebook does not steal news content,” it said in a blog post.
It appears that since users in the country woke up to empty news feeds, Facebook has already begun removing news content from Australia. “Reacting to the decision, it was called “wrong” by Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, adding that “the actions of Facebook were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia,” Reuters reported.
He also said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, gave no warning about the news shutdown when the pair spoke over the weekend.
So what changes for Australian users and news publishers is Facebook going to make?
William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand, wrote in a separate blog post that Australia’s users and news organizations are “now restricted from posting news links on the platform and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.” This would be the first time that Facebook has restricted the sharing of news content on the site by an entire nation.
“Posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted as part of the new rules,” the company said. Facebook will rely on a “combination of technologies to limit news content,” but said it will have “processes to review any inadvertently deleted content.”
Your Facebook page will suddenly be of no value to Australian news publishers. The reason for this is that they will not be able to share or post any content on these pages and the modifications are already in place.
“Admins will still be able to access other features from their Facebook page, including Page Insights and Creator Studio, according to Facebook. The company will continue to give access to “other standard Facebook services, including data tools and CrowdTangle.” The latter is a tool for news publishers and brands to “content discovery and social monitoring platform,” but without the ability to s”
Facebook says that for international news publishers, while they can continue posting their content on the platform, it will no longer be “viewed or shared by Australian audiences.”
They will no longer be able to “view or share Australian or international news content on Facebook or Australian and international news content” for Australian users.
Nor will they be able to “view or share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news pages” for international users.
Why is Facebook banning Australian users and news organisations from news content?
The proposed law, as noted, asks Facebook and Google to pay for the use of news links. The argument is that advertising revenues have largely gone to these two players in the digital world, while news organizations have been suffering. Australia wants this fundamental ‘imbalance’ to be corrected.
Easton wrote that “the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content is fundamentally misunderstood by the proposed law.” The post also explained why Facebook was taking a different stance compared to Google.
The search giant had also threatened to pull its search engine out of the country, but the threats appeared to be back. Google has struck deals with several Australian news media outlets, according to news reports, and will pay them for using their content and links.
But Facebook says that Google is totally different from the way they work.
Google Search is inextricably linked to news, and publishers do not provide their content on a voluntary basis. Publishers, on the other hand, willingly choose to post Facebook news, as it enables them to sell more subscriptions, grows their audiences, and increase advertising revenue, Easton wrote in the blog post.
Facebook also said its platform generated about 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers, worth an estimated AU$407 million. “The social network also denied that the use of news links helps its company, adding that “the business gain from the news is minimal,” and that news only accounts for “less than 4% of the content people see in their news feed.
The post also states that in Australia, the company had plans to launch ‘Facebook News’ but would not do so in the face of the new law. It goes on to add that when the ‘right rules’ are in place, they will only do so.
Reactions from the news media in Australia
Australian news media editors have reacted to the growth sharply. In a tweet, Sydney Morning Herald editor Lisa Davies wrote that the move by Facebook would increase misinformation. “All right, it’s a tantrum. The opportunity for misinformation, dangerous radicalism, and conspiracy theories to abound on its platform has been exponentially increased by Facebook. Even more important, she wrote, is to subscribe to a news outlet that you respect.