Australians will no longer be able to access news content via Facebook, after the social media platform made the extraordinary decision to ban publishers and users from sharing news.
Making the announcement this morning, Facebook’s Australia & New Zealand managing director William Easton revealed the platform would “stop allowing news content on our services in Australia”.
And while the news came as a shock to many, it followed a previous threat from the tech giant to remove news in Australia if the government was to pass the News Media Bargaining Code.
The legislation was passed through the House of Representatives last night and is expected to pass the Senate and become law next week.
Facebook has argued that the Code does not take into account the value publishers gain from sharing their content on the platform.
“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,” said Easton.
“Last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million.”
With Google having this week signed deals with Nine, Seven West Media, News Corp and Junkee as part of the News Media Bargaining Code – some believed to be worth more than $30 million annually – Facebook has weighed up the financial viability of agreeing to such a Code.
“For Facebook, the business gain from news is minimal. News makes up less than four per cent 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,” Easton said.
What it means
The changes will affect publishers, Australians and the international community from today.
Australian publishers will no longer be able to share any content on their Facebook Page. Admins will still be able to access features such as Page Insights and Creator Studio.
International publishers will be able to operate as normal, however, their content will not be visible for any Australian users.
This means Australian Facebook users will be completely unable to access news via the platform, regardless of whether the publisher is local or international.
The changes are already in place for Australian users, with publisher Facebook pages currently displaying ‘no posts yet’ when accessed.
Much like how Google has promoted its News Showcase as a way to pay publishers for their content, Facebook has pushed for Facebook News to launch in Australia as a way to promote journalism.
Facebook News is currently live in both the UK and US.
“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,” Easton said.
“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.”
Easton did not explicitly state that Facebook would be willing to back down from its stance, however, he did invite the government to “work with us to strengthen, rather than limit, our partnerships with publishers”.
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