Facebook announced today that it has decided to remove all Australian news content (a very broad definition) from its platform in the latest escalation of the fight between Google and Facebook, and the Australian government.
Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director, William Easton, has taken to the company blog stating that:
“in response to Australia’s proposed new Media Bargaining law, Facebook will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.”
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and 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.”
Easton has further stated that Facebook has made its position clear to the Australian government for many months now. It contends that it generated around 5.1bn free referrals to Australian news publishers last year, estimated to be worth around $407m.
Already, the big major media companies and publishers have responded to Facebook’s move to withdraw new sharing in Australia, with a Nine Entertainment spokesperson stating:
“It is unfortunate Facebook have taken this position and it will indeed inhibit us from sharing our quality news and information with Australians,”
“Nobody benefits from this decision as Facebook will now be a platform for misinformation to rapidly spread without balance. This action proves again their monopoly position and unreasonable behaviour.
“But today’s statement does not mean Facebook will not have to abide by the Federal Government’s proposed code. Value has already been transferred and Facebook has benefited from our content for many years. We should be able to access their monopoly platform and have the right to monetise our content as a result.
“We have been negotiating with Facebook in good faith and we remain willing to do a deal with them that provides a mutually beneficial outcome and ensures quality information is available to all Australians on their platform”
However there have been further implications with the news share ban, with other sites such as SA Health, Queensland Health, Bureau of Meteorology to name a few, have had their sites wiped or blocked from sharing news to users.
There is widespread concern that – as we’re still in the midst of a pandemic – critical information will now be that much harder for people to access. Like it or not, Facebook has been a popular destination for news and now it won’t be. Without genuine news content to balance it out, Facebook simply becomes a venue for stupid videos and conspiracy theories.
In other words, banal junk.
We’re not surprised at Facebook’s action, and while we mightn’t support it, we’re also not fond of the government legislating additional revenue into the hands of media conglomerates that hardly need (nor deserve) government legislation to support their questionable business practices.
This tweet sums up our views perfectly:
Yes there are big problems with Google and Facebook having too much power and influence. Plus avoiding paying a fair share of tax in Australia.
But trying to fix that by giving more money to the Murdoch Newscorp empire, Nine-Fairfax, and Channel 7 is not the answer.
— Poe Dameron (@Kynes99) February 18, 2021
Google, which also threatened to pull out of Australia in a similar fashion, has been doing the opposite, making deals with Seven West Media, News Corp Australia and Nine Entertainment.
What do you make of the current state of play?