Facebook Bans News in Australia

Facebook Bans News in Australia
Image: Getty
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If you’re reading this, it means you didn’t come from Facebook because the tech giant has made the drastic move to ban Australians from posting or sharing news.

On Thursday morning, Facebook Australia and New Zealand’s managing director William Easton announced the move on the company blog.

“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,” he wrote.

“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.”

How does Facebook’s news ban in Australia work?

Using Facebook’s software, the company will stop Australian users from sharing, posting or viewing Australian or international news content.

International users won’t be able to see Australian content either.

Australian news publishers have been restricted from posting or sharing their content.

International publishers’ content won’t be able to be seen in Australia.

How did we get to a Facebook news ban in Australia?

Throughout the development of the law, both Facebook and Google had made it clear that they found the law to be undesirable.

Facebook’s stressed that news means little to them — but a lot to Australian publishers.

“For Facebook, the business gain from news is minimal. News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their News Feed,” Easton said.

“Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million.”

Over the past few days, Google has signed or is reportedly close to signing deals with major Australian publishers which would mean the code wouldn’t have to apply to them.

Looks like Facebook’s taking the other route!

The entire Facebook Blog

Here’s the blog post from Facebook in full:

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.

This discussion has focused on US technology companies and how they benefit from news content on their services. We understand many will ask why the platforms may respond differently. The answer is because our platforms have fundamentally different relationships with news. Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content. On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue. 

In fact, and as we have made clear to the Australian government for many months, the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favor of the publishers — which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume. Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million. 

For Facebook, the business gain from news is minimal. News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their 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.

Over the last three years we’ve worked with the Australian Government to find a solution that recognizes the realities of how our 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. 

We were prepared to launch Facebook News in Australia and significantly increase our investments with local publishers, however, we were only prepared to do this with the right rules in place. 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. 

Others have also raised concern. Independent experts and analysts around the world have consistently outlined problems with the proposed legislation. While the government has made some changes, the proposed law fundamentally fails to understand how our services work.

Unfortunately, this means people and news organisations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook. Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted. To do this, we are using a combination of technologies to restrict news content and we will have processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed.

For Australian publishers this means:

  • They are restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages
  • Admins will still be able to access other features from their Facebook Page, including Page insights and Creator Studio   
  • We will continue to provide access to all other standard Facebook services, including data tools and CrowdTangle

For international publishers this means:

  • They can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts can’t be viewed or shared by Australian audiences

For our Australian community this means: 

  • They cannot view or share Australian or international news content on Facebook or content from Australian and international news Pages 

For our international community this means:

  • They cannot view or share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news Pages 

The changes affecting news content will not otherwise change Facebook’s products and services in Australia. 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.  

We recognise it’s important to connect people to authoritative information and we will continue to promote dedicated information hubs like the COVID-19 Information Centre, that connects Australians with relevant health information. Our commitment to remove harmful misinformation and provide access to credible and timely information will not change. We remain committed to our third-party fact-checking program with Agence France-Presse and Australian Associated Press and will continue to invest to support their important work.

Our global commitment to invest in quality news also has not changed. We recognise that news provides a vitally important role in society and democracy, which is why we recently expanded Facebook News to hundreds of publications in the UK. 

We hope that in the future the Australian government will recognise the value we already provide and work with us to strengthen, rather than limit, our partnerships with publishers.

Comments

    • Facebook just hide a lot of non-news posts because of their complete ineptitude in identifying content on their sites. A lot of public health and safety agencies have lost their posts, especially on Covid during a global health crisis.

      F%$# Facebook – Ban them.

      • that wasnt ineptitude on facebooks behalf, that was them being malicously compliant to the letter of the law of the proposed ledgisation thats already passed the house

        • I think that is actually the right response. Shit legislation should be fixed in government. So if the government poorly defined what a news site is and gets the health, police etc Facebook pages banned, it’s the government’s issue to amend the legislation.

  • Google kinda started down the same path a few weeks ago when it pulled certain publications from appearing on the news feeds.
    They said it was a test but you could clearly see it was a statement and it was hilarious watching the hacks freak out.

  • Glad they had the balls to follow through unlike Google.

    Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but I see it as news companies are like a restaurant, Google/Facebook are a free taxi service dropping people off in the restaurant, and the restaurant wants the taxi to pay them for the privilege of dropping customers at their door for free! Absolutely absurd in my eyes.

    • Not exactly. Through allowing news to be shared, Facebooks offering became richer in content without having to pay for it. Users did not have to go to a news site and buy a meal (view ads), but could sample the content of all restaurants (news sites) while paying Facebook (viewing ads on Facebook) and not paying a cent for to anyone who actually created the content.

      Thus, Facebook benefited from news media considerably but did not pay a cent for it. The referral links they talk about are meaningless as we don’t know how much content was shared and consumed by users without going to a news site.

      • Heres the thing…. if facebook and google are actually on masse just reposting the content on their site which means you bypass the website then yes you have a point.

        However (at least in googles case.. feel free to correct me about facebook) your completely confusing the business models of search sites and links. They dont take any revenue from said news site since all engines do is link to the site itself. You will still need to go access the website and the new site still gets to peddle their ads to you.

        A search engine actually “helps” these sites get more ad revenue because they get boosted visibility from the search links as people are more likely to randomly just check articles as opposed to relying on just people actually actively looking for news.

        Its a classic case of wanting cake and eating it because technology is such an everyday part of life now but very few people actually understand how it works.

        • To clarify, a big part of the dispute over google’s search results is that it doesn’t just include a link, it also includes a snippet of the first paragraph or two. In many cases this is plenty enough information for people to not feel any need to click through to read the full article.

          This is kind of like how Kotaku readers routinely read the headline and the first couple of sentences of an article then jump straight into the comments section to share their very strongly held opinions about what they think the article probably was going to say.

          With Google, what ends up happening is that Google harvests ad revenue by summarising news into tweet-sized chunks, with their own advertising beside that list, and thereafter the only ad revenue that a news organisation generates are actual click throughs.

          This arrangement also bypasses all the revenue that a newspaper would have generated from people starting on the newspaper’s main landing page and using the newspaper’s own summary links, as well as any efforts by that paper to promote certain article links (eg by prominently displaying more lucrative real estate or lifestyle articles).

          Ultimately the problem is that newspapers don’t make enough money from someone reading just one article that’s been clicked through, they make most of their ad revenue from all the other pages that people have to navigate through, or get distracted by, on the way to getting to the content that they came for.

          • ^
            This.

            I’m also fairly confident it’s copyright infringement issue as well, because they’re showing chunks of the article as thumbails for commercial use and I don’t think that’s allowed in Australian copyright law (the law might have changed, feel free to correct me). They’re effectively using the media’s content without paying a licensing fee and the media have a right to complain in this instance.

          • Interesting.. thanks for the clarification.

            Anecdotal but from the limited news links i bother with on google its almost always just a headline and usually just 1 or sentences which is the lead on to an article. The exact same stuff you would see as links had in the main page of a news site to give you an idea of the article. Which to be fair is the same as any link.. its there to get your attention enough whether you would be invested enougn to read. So not exactly the same as what you mentioned of having paragraphs of the article which I would agree is a huge difference to just linking. Of course this is just my end

            As for the lost revenue from the main news page.. IMHO its a rather disingenuous argument to make. First is it really lost revenue if the person who clicked on that 1 article had no intention to go to the main page to begin with? A lot of consumers these days are just looking at news on a casual basis.. you see something trending or hear something and you search and check the link on your trending or check the resulting links. Very rarely do people actually actively go to a news site because most folks arent that invested.

            Also whilst 1 page on their own may not be much but you will almost always get a collection of articles “like this link” at any given news page which promotes further browsing on the website. Which is almost always the case with folks digging deeper on what they are reading. Sure you didnt go through the main page but you are now at the site actively using it and checking other articles now. And the argument can also be made that since normal news articles have such a short lifespan because of the need for constant information such links tend to increase their lifespan (and thus earning capacity) because it can either be picked up as a link later or by throughput of “news like this” when u get to the website.

      • Again, maybe I’m missing something, but on my Facebook feed I only ever saw the headline and a link.

        I have never seen fully hosted news content on Facebook or Google, and have never not visited a link because I got all the info I wanted from Facebook or Google.

        News companies got billions of free clicks from Facebook and Google and it was greedy to try to charge them extra on top of that. Hopefully they notice a drop in numbers and beg the government to drop this law.

        • It might be just a “link”, but Facebook is still leveraging the status of the news media company and the article behind the link to enrich its platform.

          If you think about your Facebook news feed, it is filled with a mixture of content from friends, sponsored posts (ads) and links to “suggested” content. Some of the suggested content is/was news articles, this content enriches the platform without Facebook requiring to pay anyone to create it. The amount of news that you would have seen previously on Facebook is dictated by how much you interacted with news articles previously. If you did not interact with them, its likely that you never would have seen many.

          What is more likely to happen now is that Facebook will lose more created content as it refuses to pay for it or be responsible for the content on its platform.

          • The other issue is they didn’t just ban news media. They removed content from government pages, community groups, emergency services, not-for-profits… They want to bully the government from bringing in these laws as they are afraid of what it might mean globally for Facebook.

            If it was just about paying some news media for content that is “insignificant” on their platform, they would not of thrown the ban hammer around so hard…

          • I guess the fact they banned it is telling – if they felt it added value to their platform they would have paid for it.

            At the end of the day it was facebook users posting links to free news sites. News sites should put a paywall on their content if they believe it’s so valuable. Or the government should get Apple etc to pay a fairer share of tax and fund news themselves.

          • That kinda goes both ways though… these multimedia corporatioms are leveraging the fact that billions of people everyday have eyeballs on facebook and thatin turn is billions of eyes that could potentially look at their articles.

            Also lets be honest in this day and age the amount of people actively going to news websites of their own accord has been dropping. A fair chunk of traffic you will get are ppl just clicking on an article because its trending on fb or other sources like reddit and the like.

            And heres the thing… maybe at the dawn of the internet wben there was more eyes on traditional news and multimedia sites they could have gone for this argument but they were perfectly happy to get the free clicks… now the tables have turned, and these websites have more views and market value someone just suddenly thinks time to pay up?

          • That’s how the internet works though. Search engines, citing references, referrals, hell posting a link in a private chat is “enriching” the chat. By that logic the news corporations should be paying every time they lift a quote from reddit.

  • Well Google was stalling until they could get their own media deals sorted. Which is hilarious to see cause all this carrying on, whinging and threats is just ending up them with a money making deal for Showcase platform.

    Its all sabre rattling business deals.

  • The only thing I hate about this is now we’re going to be drowned in people crying about censorship and ‘free speech’ and shit.

    The Australian media brought this upon themselves, and now they’ll play victim because in response they got a foot to the throat instead of bags of cash… But wanting to be paid by services delivering their news to people is so backwards it’s a joke.

    • Its the literal equivalent of marketing people going to a populat magazine “NO, YOU shoukd pay US to put ads on YOUR magazine coz more munies for us”

      The fact they managed to spin themselves as victims is quite laughable…

  • In news that is not available on Facebook, Facebook blocked Facebook on Facebook.

    (Company blocked its own Account on its own Service)

    • As well as a lot of other non news related pages.
      As funny as it is it makes sense to cast a wide net and throw the little fish back rather than get accused of bias in the move.
      (The pages caught up in the purge regularly appear in news related content or post a lot of news content themselves)

  • So happy Fakebook have banned all Australian news from the site. Best thing they could have done for Australians. The public should not rely on a third party to filter their news for them. I can only hope they block illegitimate news as well.
    Better still, block Fakebook entirely!

  • Still hoping for an outcome to this that results in the mutually assured destruction of Google, Facebook, News Corp and the Australian government.

    • Google already secured most of the media rights it needs to side step the code. So News Corp and Aust govt is happy. They are all mutually happy.

      Yesterday was the third draft reading of the code in Canberra… next day Facebook chucked a tantrum. It’s only Facebook that’s unhappy… and it’s not Australia he is angry at, it’s Google for pulling out of the fight.

  • Great, now if Facebook (along with Twitter) could withdraw entirely from Australia that’d be even better. If I never have to see Robot Lad or Always High ever again, it’ll be too soon.

    • Ugh… Twitter.

      Facebook is bad… But man, if the technologically inept lot in charge can only ban one I hope they get confused while talking about it and ban Twitter instead.

    • Dude… im not an active Twitter user and its a cesspit fir commentary 99.9% of the time but my I need it to feed my current addiction to vTubers since they post their schedules n stuff on it!

      Dont take my anime avatars away from meeee! XD

  • Seeing as Australian media is seemingly avoiding covering the News Media bargain code in its entirety and only focusing on the revenue aspect, You should watch this video done by a great Aussie youtuber who explains why this legislation is junk and unworkable.

    https://youtu.be/zj2r948rUkQ

    • Who cares? Facebook and Google don’t even pay tax here, I don’t see why any of us should give a shit at this point about the government hurting their feelings.

        • No, I mean literally “who cares” about their complaints, because the reality is that none of their concerns have anything to do with us as the end using public. Google’s service has become progressively more shit in the search engine component alone and Facebook (along with Twitter) is the bunghole of the internet for basically… everything. If both of them disappeared tomorrow, nothing of major value would be lost as far as contributions to the country are concerned.

          I’m not going to shedding a tear for any of the parties involved, but when Zuckerberg’s own board wants to get rid of him, I’m sure as hell not feeling sorry for Facebook.

          • “No, I mean literally “who cares” about their complaints,”

            Many do, If you made the attempt to understand why the legislation is bad you might understand.

            you clearly care as well since you are putting in so much effort to demonstrate your “not caring”

            Research is a wonderful thing, makes you look like less of a fool when trying to comment on topics.

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