Facebook has announced that it will, from today, “restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content” as a result of the Australian Government’s Media Bargaining Code.
Although the Code is still due to be voted on in parliament, the news ban in the country is already under effect, with Australians waking up today to messages from the social media giant explaining the changes.
The story so far
Australia’s Media Bargaining Code proposed that tech giants such as Facebook and Google pay local media publications when linking to their content, in the hope that the revenue is shared more fairly between media sources.
Naturally, both Facebook and Google disagree with this proposal, variously claiming that it misses the point. Facebook spokesperson, William Easton, claims the law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content”.
Facebook had threatened to block news content in Australia since September, and is now coming good with its threats, and Google stated it would stop operating its search engine in the country if the law was passed.
Microsoft, seizing this opportunity, sided with the Australian Government and put forward its search engine Bing as an alternative, offering to increase its investment in it if Google were to pull its own engine from the country.
In fact, Microsoft even went as far as suggesting that the US adopt the same laws that Australia is proposing, claiming that it “strengthens democracy by requiring tech companies to support a free press”.
The opposite of news
Regarding the specifics on Facebook’s latest ban, it affects all people and news organizations in Australia. Neither party will be able to view, link to, or share any news, either locally or globally.
This means that Australian publications that have previously gained global readers via sharing to Facebook will lose all visibility and ability to do so.
On the converse, it also means that any Australian that looked to Facebook to keep up to date on global events (or local, for that matter) will no longer see any news items appear whatsoever.
According to studies conducted by analysts Roy Morgan, as of March 2020, 37.7% of Australians relied on social media as their main source of news, and a further 16.5% relied on news feed sites like Google News, both rather significant portions of the population.
While Facebook followed through on its threats “with a heavy heart”, Google has begun signing deals with Australian media publications, striking a five-year, AU$30m deal with Nine media and in talks with others such as the ABC and Guardian Australia.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has also made a global deal with the tech giant, which will continue to carry on as usual with Google News and the Google search engine, but it will also involve establishing a subscription platform shared between the two companies.
No doubt this situation will develop further in the coming days, so stay tuned for the latest on Facebook and Google’s news bargaining.