• Cheek

Facebook news ban wrapped

What happened?

After months of Facebook and Google threatening to withdraw their services from Australia, Facebook followed through this morning, wiping all news from the platform's feed. This has been an action long in the making, with the News Media Bargaining Code first introduced in September 2020, not a sudden move, as has been implied by some media outlets.

One day before the ban, Google reportedly agreed to multi-million dollar deals with Nine and Seven West Media. Many people are asking why the two platforms responded differently, and Facebook has said that "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."

Who’s on the chopping block?

It appears that the public, media outlets, and Twitter users are holding Facebook responsible for the changes. Consumers are disappointed in Facebook, saying that it shouldn’t be so easy for the social media giant to blog useful pages but not take action on fake news and dangerous content.

On the other side, the government, including Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has been championing the News Media Bargaining Code, have refused to take any responsibility. Frydnenberg is reportedly meeting with Mark Zuckerberg to come to an agreement.

What about the wrongly blocked pages?

There have been a number of pages that were wrongly banned, like BOM, Queensland Health, and important social services. Consumers and politicians are rightly upset by this, however it appears to be nothing more than an algorithmic issue. Facebook stated earlier in the day that those pages will be back ‘imminently,’ and a large number have already been reinstated.

What’s next?

Well, we don’t know. And neither does anyone. The common thought prior to today’s bans was that Facebook and Google would never follow through with their threats to restrict Aussie’s use of the platforms, but now that Facebook has, things are a bit different. We may be facing a very different future on Facebook than we anticipated.

The News Media Bargaining Code has not yet been passed, however, if the reports are true, and large media outlets have made a deal with Google, the law may not be far away. The way we see it, there are three potential options for a way forward:

  1. The Government backs down and the News Media Bargaining Code is scrapped, ultimately restoring Facebook to how it was prior to the ban,

  2. Facebook backs down and gives control back to news outlets, also restoring the old Facebook, but with a questionable future as to what will happen if and when the News Media Bargaining Code is passed as law, or

  3. Neither Facebook nor the Government backs down, and Australians will continue to use Facebook without news.