In Australia, news publishers’ Facebook pages were empty of all posts as of Thursday morning after the company followed through on threats to ban them from the platform in response to a proposed new law in which social media giants would pay news outlets for content.
Australian users can no longer read or share local or international news content on their news feeds. However, high-quality and reliable journalism and news can still be accessed elsewhere.
Twitter, Reddit and news curators Apple News and Flipboard are platforms that still allow news links, and so far, people in Australia can continue to share news content on Facebook-owned platforms Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.
And of course, Facebook’s move will likely drive users back to the original websites where news is published, as well as to news outlets’ own apps.
TV and radio personality Ben Fordham argued this during an appearance on Channel 9′s breakfast program, the ‘Today Show’, on Thursday morning.
“There is going to be more activity on websites, so instead of people accessing ‘Today Show’ material through the ‘Today Show’ Facebook page, that will be going to Channel 9 websites and the ‘Today Show’ website,” he said.
As of Thursday, Facebook has stripped links and videos from Australia’s biggest news brands, such as the ABC, Sydney Morning Herald, Yahoo News, BuzzFeed and News.com.au. Facebook has also removed HuffPost Australia’s Facebook content.
Lifestyle brands like New Idea and Marie Claire are also affected. The Bureau of Meteorology, MS Research and the satire site Betoota Advocate are also part of the ban.
Facebook also appears to have banned its own page from Australian viewers:
Those overseas, meanwhile, are not be able to access any content from Australia on Facebook, either.
The decision is in response to a news media bargaining code that would see big tech companies like Google and Facebook pay news publishers for their content. The Australian federal government has said it plans to put the legislation, which effectively forces Google and Facebook to strike deals with media companies or have fees set for them, to a vote in the coming weeks.
Facebook said the proposed legislation “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between the social media platform and publishers, arguing that news outlets voluntarily post their article links on the platform.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he has been in contact with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Experts say Facebook’s decision to pull news from its Australian users reveals just how little the platform cares about stopping misinformation.
“Facebook blocking news in the middle of a pandemic, when accurate information is a key plank of the public health response, really tells you all you need to know about how much Zuckerberg cares about Australian society and cohesion,” said Chris Cooper, executive director of Reset Australia.
“Facebook is telling Australians that rather than participate meaningfully in regulatory efforts, it would prefer to operate a platform in which real news has been abandoned or de-prioritised, leaving misinformation to fill the void.”
With files from Reuters.
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