In August 2020 Facebook threatened it would reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia to share local and international news on Facebook and Instagram if proposals to introduce the Media Bargaining law continued.
Overnight Will Eastman (pictured), managing director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, explained how that threat is now a reality as Facebook has now restricted publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.
Eastman explained: “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.”
The move comes on the same day that the biggest publishers in Australia, Nine Entertainment and News Corp Australia, revealed they had come to terms with Google about receiving payment for sharing content via the Google News Showcase. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the move today: “It’s raining Google dollars in Australian media land.” There is certainly no sign of a Facebook downpour to further fill media coffers.
Why Facebook is reacting differently to Google
Easton referred to why Facebook is acting differently to its tech counterpart.
“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 favour 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.”
In continuing to explain the Facebook ban, Easton added: “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 recognises 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.”
Facebook summarises its news ban
For Australian publishers this means:
Publishers 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
Facebook 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
What happens next?
Easton explained what the platform hopes will happen after further discussions with publishers and the government.
“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.”