As you’re likely aware at this point, Facebook has this morning (February 18) blocked Australian publishers from sharing news content on the platform, indefinitely.
The decision has come in response to the Australian government’s proposed legislation calling for payment from platforms like Facebook and Google for news content.
William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand, announced the news in a blog post on February 17, 2021. In the post he wrote:
“In response to Australia’s proposed new Media Bargaining law, Facebook will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.”
“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.”
What does this mean for you?
If you head to your Facebook account, you may not notice that much has changed at first glance. But you will likely find that all of the pages attached to your favourite news outlets have been wiped. While some have found workarounds, like our friends at Gizmodo here, and it appears outlets (like us at Lifehacker Australia) still have the ability to post from Facebook Creator Studio, audiences have seemingly lost all ability to engage with the content news creators are sharing to the social media platform.
If you’re a Facebook user, you will no longer be able to see or share news stories and if you are an international consumer of Australian news, you too will lose the ability to view or share Australian news content.
What about Google?
There has been much discussion of late about Google’s threat to similarly pull the plug on Aussie news outlets – with the search engine suggesting it may remove the search function for Australians entirely.
However, as SBS reports, Google has been in negotiations with Australian news publishers in recent weeks, signing new deals relating to news dissemination and pay.
For the moment, there’s no clear guide as to when or if this Facebook block will ease. Aussie audiences will have to shift the way they consume their news updates, at least for the moment, it seems.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tweeted this morning that he and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had a “constructive discussion”. He shared that Zuckerberg “raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward”.
This morning, I had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from #Facebook.
He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward.
— Josh Frydenberg (@JoshFrydenberg) February 17, 2021
So, I suppose for now: watch this space.