Facebook bans news for all Australians
Overnight, Facebook banned news stories being shown on its site for all Australians. This means that news stories will stop showing up in their feeds and publishers pages have had all their posts deleted.
Why has Facebook banned news?
It did this in opposition to a new News Media Bargaining Code being introduced, that would force it into deals to pay for news. Australia is trying to force tech giants into these deals to support publishers. Google has also threatened to withdraw its search service. You can read more about that here.
What has Facebook blocked?
Australian publishers, newspapers and TV news channels have all seen their stories wiped from Facebook, whether they are shared by users or by the publishers themselves. However, it has also inadvertently blocked dozens of other pages and posts that are not technically news. This has included updates from charities including domestic violence hotlines, weather channels and even its own official Facebook page.
What have people said?
Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has said Australia will not be “intimidated” by Facebook. Scientists and charities have issued warnings that other content has been caught up in the ban, including health warnings over coronavirus. Australia Science and Technology said: “For Facebook to block access to the feeds of trusted science and health organisations in Australia during a pandemic and bushfire season is irresponsible and dangerous.”
There are also concerns that Facebook’s block on traditional news sources will amplify misinformation at a time when news about the pandemic and vaccines can be a matter of life and death.
Are there concerns about the new laws?
Despite widespread condemnation of Facebook, there are also concerns that Australia’s new laws go too far. Critics say the rules are a capitulation to powerful news barons who hold significant political sway. They argue the rules will benefit big publishers the most. Google, meanwhile, has argued the laws will make tech firms pay to offer links, a fundamental building block of the web.
My colleague Laurence Dodds has this in-depth break down of the dust up down under. He writes:
If neither side gives in, this will be a living experiment into how powerful Facebook really is – as well as whether there is life after Facebook for publishers attempting alternative business models. Yet the cost of those answers may prove far higher than mere missed revenue.