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:

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?

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Chad
Chad
16 days ago

I’ve never been a Facebook user. And while they royally screwed up yesterday, I otherwise support their right to remove news. I wish Google had done the same.

I wrote to my federal member the other week to explain how the code is at the detriment to independents. If they cannot get in on this cash grab, then it is not a fair playing field. Not to mention it is bad for the internet.

Deej
Deej
16 days ago

Finally an article calling it for what it is – a prop up for Murdoch and Co! Whilst I absolutely hate Facebook, I also have a massive issue with Government intervening in this whole thing, especially where the benefit to smaller media organisations are much lesser than what the conglomerates stand to gain from this. And given a choice between Facebook and the Murdoch empire, I know that I will be backing Facebook any day over the drivel that comes out of the Murdoch media loonies. Support independent journalism rather than legislating to prop up the big conglomerates!

JeniSkunk
JeniSkunk
16 days ago

FB wanted to show they have more clout than the Ausfailian govermutt.
What it managed to do is show just why it needs to be reined in.
By removing real news, and failing to also remove fake news, FB shows it actively wants to foment public disorder.

OzBoy
OzBoy
16 days ago

I think this is FB testing the world market. More and more country’s are looking at charging for “news” so this is a great place to test an outcome. Reality there are many ways to aggregate news not just FB. Anyone noticed how the sites are now pushing their apps, I think FB just made these businesses lazy. While FB went to far in pulling a lot of other sites, the politicians coming out saying that FB are putting lives at risk during a pandemic is just hyperbole. All of these organisations have websites that have the required information just… Read more »

Jmave
Jmave
17 days ago

This is the Facebook that has undermined the democratic process in the United States; that has been the medium by which right-wing white racist supremacists in the U. S. have pushed their hate agenda; and the platform on which the fake news was spread concerning the recent election outcome in the U. S., culminating in the insurrection attempt against the American government.
Now they are sebaceous the spread of fake news and dangerous anti – health conspiracy theories in Australia.
Why am I not surprised?

tristanj
tristanj
17 days ago

Anyone else been enjoying Facebook more since the ban? I was sick of misleading and sensationalist headlines leading to paywalled content anyway. News organisations say they offer a vital service and yet lock news about COVID-19 behind paywalled? I don’t mind paying for news but none of their subscription services were realistically priced, and their websites are terrible plus flooded with advertising. I look forward to a new news paradigm.

GrKTcB
GrKTcB
Reply to  tristanj
16 days ago

I was thinking the same thing. It’s so much cleaner and easier to see and find content, you know from your actual family and friends! haha

Gregg
Gregg
17 days ago

Time for ScoMo to back down and stop trying to prop up murdoch’s old media.

niknaks
niknaks
17 days ago

Beginning to thinks Zucks strategy to running Facebook is Yolo. Fighting wars on many fronts can never be good. And he has played into the government’s hands…tsk tsk.