Why Facebook banned news in Australia
Facebook threatened Australia’s Media Bargaining Law
So, Australia’s new Media Bargaining Law requires social media platforms (mainly Google and Facebook) to pay local media outlets for using their content. This bill passed through the House of Representatives on Wednesday (17th February) night. By next week, it will pass to the Senate and become law soon.
Why has the Australian government decided to move with this law?
According to Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, this law would “address the bargaining power imbalances with digital platforms and media companies.” It gives a chance for the Big Tech to actually take a serious look at the importance of credible information from established media outlets.
How have the giant tech platforms reacted to this? (AKA Google, Facebook and Microsoft)
Initially, Google had threatened the Australian government that it would not comply with the law. The Alphabet-owned organization considered the move as “would destroy the business model of any search engine”.
With Google’s threat to back out from Australian markets, Microsoft found an opportunity here. It supported the Federal Government’s new code by indicating it’s search engine Bing could replace Google in Australia.
Facebook reacted to the code as ‘“unworkable”. The social media network claimed that news outlets need their platform to promote their content, when in fact, it’s the other way around. Facebook needs their content more than news outlets need them, period. (Also, it’s not like Facebook gains a lot of profit from news on users’ News Feed).
But.. in the end, what did happen?
Google complied with the law. The tech giant and Rupert Murdoch’s New Corp signed a multi-year partnership wherein Google will be paying for journalism from news sites around the world (which includes the Wall Street Journal, the Times and the Australian). The deal also includes New Corp news featuring in Google’s News Showcase product and Google making investments in video journalism and introduction of a subscription platform.
However, Facebook did not comply with the law. It has banned news in Australia. This means that:
- Sharing or posting any content on Facebook pages is limited for Australian publishers.
- Links and posts shared by international publishers on Facebook can’t be viewed or shared by Australian users.
- Australian users cannot view or share Australia news content on Facebook as well as content from Australian news Pages.
How is Facebook going to implement this ban? Not clear yet. Although, they did mention that they would use “a combination of technologies to restrict news content” and will administer “processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed”.
The impact of this ban on Australian people? Well, more and more misinformation will be spread amongst Australian Facebook users when they won’t be able to cite their sources. This ban may encourage the Australian population to read more factual information from established sources or they might just receive more false information.
What can we understand from this law and the drama followed by it? Yes, the law imposed by the Australian government (backed and supported by News Corp; well because they do gain from the code) is a good thing. It’s a lesson for the Big Tech to learn that they are responsible for their actions. Google realized that they would slowly lose power if they do not comply with the law. They saw it as a threat even when Australia is a relatively small country.
International institutions and governments are going against these big giants as they receive more power day by day. Can other countries impose laws similar to Australia’s Media Bargaining Law? Yes, they can. How are these Big Tech organizations going to handle it then? Well, let’s see. Anything can happen.