• Cheek

BREAKING: Facebook removes news

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

This morning, in Australia, we've woken up to a Facebook news feed devoid of just that - news. Facebook, as per their promise after talks about the News Media Bargaining Code (incase you missed it, read our explainer here), have pulled all news from the website for Australian users. We can't view, interact with, or share any national or international news. The Facebook pages of mainstream media outlets are empty - take a look for yourself!

ABC has reported a 'stand off' between Facebook and the Federal Government, with Mark Zuckerberg speaking to Josh Frydenberg, the official behind the News Media Bargaining Code.

Frydenberg went on to say:

Facebook needs to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing. At a time when there are already questions about the credibility of information on Facebook, that is something that they will obviously need to think about.

While Facebook is often known to be a place where misinformation and fake news runs rampant, the Treasurer has a part to play in its decision to pull all news from the platform in the first place. In the post-Trump era, social media platforms appear to be more willing to make moves against people spreading misinformation, with Facebook having banned Pete Evans in December, and just recently suspended Craig Kelly.

The consequences

The consequences of this are multi-fold. We're in a charged climate here in Australia, with survivor Brittany Higgins coming out this week with the story of her alleged rape in Parliament House by a fellow Liberal staffer. With Facebook being the tool many, many people use for news updates, how many people are now going to forget about her story, or miss updates that continue to be released?

Many people do not actively seek out news. Facebook has been delivering us our news for many years now. We reach for our phones and scroll through Facebook first thing each day to see what we've missed overnight or on the other side of the world. Many, many people only see the news that comes directly into their eyeline.

But is this all bad? It's likely that tens of thousands of people will go without news today, or may not even notice this ban. We've been tut tutting at our parents, grandparents, and friends who spread the news that they 'read on Facebook'. It's known to us that fake news spreads like wildfire on the platform, and that people only read headlines and comments sections.

This leaves us with the question: is no news better than fake news?

For many years, Facebook has shown us that many people aren't discerning when it comes to news. They'll read what their parents read, or what pops up, or just surmise the facts from a headline. People who seek out the news actively won't be affected by these changes. Are the passive news consumers better off without it?

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