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Facebook bans news sharing and viewing in Australia

  • February 18 2021
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Facebook bans news sharing and viewing in Australia

By Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
February 18 2021

Aussies will no longer be able to share or view local or international news content on Facebook, with the social media giant announcing late on Wednesday that it will restrict “publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing” news.

Facebook bans news sharing and viewing in Australia

Facebook bans news sharing and viewing in Australia

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  • February 18 2021
  • Share

Aussies will no longer be able to share or view local or international news content on Facebook, with the social media giant announcing late on Wednesday that it will restrict “publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing” news.

Facebook bans news sharing and viewing in Australia

Facebook’s director for Australia and New Zealand, Willian Easton, said Australia’s proposed new media bargaining law misunderstands the platforms relationship with publishers who use it to share news content.

“It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia.

“With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter,” said Mr Easton.

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Responding to Facebook’s seemingly unexpected announcement, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tweeted on Thursday morning: “This morning, I had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from #Facebook.

“He raised a few remaining issues with the government’s news media bargaining code, and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward.”

But Facebook’s restrictions are already being rolled out, with several news sites reporting on Thursday morning that their Facebook pages have been wiped clean. The Sydney Morning Herald and NewsCorp’s The Australia were among the first to announce their publications have been removed from the social media platform.

Despite Facebook’s decision to follow through on its threat, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher confirmed on 2GB radio that the government would not back down from legislating the code, which could come into effect as early as next week.  

“We’ll be maintaining the path that we’ve been following. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and I have been very consistent on that,” Mr Fletcher said.

“It’s very important that we have a diverse and well-resourced news media sector in Australia, that’s a critical part of our democracy. Now, that may not seem important to a company in Silicon Valley, but it’s very important to the Australian government,” the Minister told 2GB.

But according to Facebook, Australian publishers are “willingly” choosing to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to increase their reach and advertising revenue.

The social media giant said that last year alone it generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated $407 million.

Conversely, its business gain from news is “minimal”.

“News makes up less than 4 per cent of the content people see in their [Facebook] News Feed.

“Journalism is important to a democratic society, which is why we build dedicated, free tools to support news organisations around the world in innovating their content for online audiences,” Mr Easton said.

He confirmed that for over three years, Facebook has worked with the Australian government to find a solution that recognises the realities of how its services work.

“We’ve long worked toward rules that would encourage innovation and collaboration between digital platforms and news organisations.

“Unfortunately, this legislation does not do that. Instead it seeks to penalise Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for,” Facebook’s local boss added.

He revealed that prior to the deterioration of its relationship with the Australian government, Facebook was preparing to launch Facebook News in the country, which would have “significantly” increased its investments with local publishers.

“This legislation sets a precedent where the government decides who enters into these news content agreements, and ultimately, how much the party that already receives value from the free service gets paid.

“We will now prioritise investments to other countries, as part of our plans to invest in new licensing news programs and experiences,” Mr Easton confirmed.

Addressing Facebook’s millions of Australian users, Mr Easton confirmed that the platform’s other services will not change.

“We want to assure the millions of Australians using Facebook to connect with friends and family, grow their businesses and join Groups to help support their local communities, that these services will not change,” he concluded.

Facebook bans news sharing and viewing in Australia
Facebook bans news sharing and viewing in Australia
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About the author

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Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of nestegg and Smart Property Investment. Email Maja at [email protected]

About the author

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Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of nestegg and Smart Property Investment. Email Maja at [email protected]

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