In Australia, Facebook bans all news content- here’s why

By Anushka Jain

Social media giant Facebook has blocked all news content from being shared and circulated on its platform in Australia on Thursday, retaliating to the country’s new media code.

The new law aims to make social media companies like Google and Facebook pay news publishers for the articles and news content that they use on their websites.

Following the new policy’s implementation, government and charity organizations saw their Facebook pages go offline along with news organizations both local and international.

Reacting to which, Australian prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote on his own Facebook page, “Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,”

In a blog post, Facebook announced the move saying, “Today, we made an incredibly difficult decision to restrict the availability of news on Facebook in Australia. What the proposed law introduced in Australia fails to recognise is the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers.

Further the company’s Australia and New Zealand head William Easton explained the move by saying,“For Facebook, the business gain from news is minimal. News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their News Feed.”

However, a 2020 University of Canberra study found 21 per cent of Australians use social media as their primary news source, up 3 per cent from the previous year, while 39 per cent of the population uses Facebook to receive news. The same study said 29 per cent of Australian news video content is consumed on Facebook.

Lisa Davies, editor of daily The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, owned by Nine Entertainment Co Ltd, tweeted: “Facebook has exponentially increased the opportunity for misinformation, dangerous radicalism and conspiracy theories to abound on its platform.”

Over the last few years, news publishers across the world have lost significant amount of ad revenue to tech giants as advertisers chose to work with them instead. The new Australian law called ‘News Bargaining Media Code’ tried to set right that imbalance.

The new Australian media code was initially fought by both Facebook and Google for years, however the latter has shifted its stance and recently struck deals with various media outlets.

Google has most recently struck a deal with NewsCorp which runs outlets like Wall Street Journal, The Times, Sky News, New York Post and so on, and other Australian publishers like Nine Entertainment, Junkee Media and Seven West Media.

The law holds a lot of significance for Facebook for whom it can set precedence in other countries for example in France, where Google has already struck up similar deals with publishers.