What you need to know
- Facebook is banning news content in Australia.
- It is doing this in response to a proposed new Media Bargaining law.
- Charities, government organizations, and even Facebook's own page have been caught up in the fray.
Facebook has restricted news content on its platform in Australia over proposed new media laws, leading to many outlets, government organizations, charities, and even Facebook's own page on the site being restricted.
Over the past 24 hours, Facebook announced it was blocking users from viewing or sharing news on the platform, in response to a proposed new media licensing laws, as explained by Reuters:
Australians were blocked from accessing news in their Facebook feeds after an escalation of the proposed media bargaining code which would require the company and Google to reach commercial deals with news outlets whose links drive traffic to their platforms.
In a post pre-empting the changes, Facebook stated:
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.
Facebook says the "value exchange between Facebook and publishers" runs in favor of the publishers, as Facebook generated 5.1 billion free referrals to publishers last year worth AU$407 million. By contrast, Facebook says the business gain from news for the platform is minimal and makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their news feed.
Another added wrinkle to the story, however, is that many "innocent bystander" pages seem to have been caught up in the war. Facebook has blocked Australians from accessing many pages from government organizations and charities. This includes:
- Australian Council of Trade Unions
- Women's Legal Services Tasmania
- Queensland Health
- The Bureau of Meteorology
- 1800 Respect, an organization for victims of domestic violence
- Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA
- Women's Rugby League
- Western Sydney Health
Other targeted organizations include cancer charities, city council pages, energy and transport companies, homeless organizations, and Facebook itself. That's right, Facebook has banned its own Facebook page:
The Australian government is standing by its new law, from the BBC:
Australia's conservative government is standing by the law - which passed the lower house of parliament on Wednesday. It has broad cross-party support and will be debated again in parliament on Thursday.
"We will legislate this code. We want the digital giants paying traditional news media businesses for generating original journalistic content," said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg who added that "the eyes of the world are watching what's happening here". He said he'd also had a discussion with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg which had been "constructive".
Many users in Australia are extremely angry over the move, and the hashtag 'DeleteFacebook' is currently trending on Twitter.