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Australia awoke to a number of empty Facebook pages and over 22.4K tweets stating “so Facebook” this morning. The social media giant has gone through with their threat from September 2020, banning Australian’s from sharing both local and international news. The response is in retaliation to the Australian Government’s proposed media bargaining law, planning to force social media giants to pay for content.
Facebook Australia and New Zealand’s Managing Director, William Easton, outlined the minor business gain from news in his statement, stating news content makes up “less than four percent of the content people see in their News Feed”. But what about the algorithm? News content could take up fifty percent of an individual’s News Feed if that’s what will be “most valuable and meaningful to an individual over the long term.” Anyway…
It is of their own free will that publishers post news on Facebook, with an aim to increase their reach and grow audiences. Easton highlighted “Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million” in the previous year - so why wouldn’t news sources publish out to the platform? Facebook believes the proposed legislation penalises the platform for content it didn’t take, nor ask for. The platform was created with the purpose of connecting family and friends, it was never intended to be a news source.
While legitimate news sources, such as the Sydney Morning Herald, ABC News, and 9News have had their page content removed, the removal of other pages has raised questions about what is considered ‘news’ and concerns about the ethics of the move:
Queensland Health - in the middle of a pandemic?
Bureau of Meteorology - when there’s bushfires in Western Australia?
Australian Wildlife Conservancy - but this is a wildlife charity?
AFL Women’s - yet AFL Men’s remains?
First Nations Media Australia - during a vaccine rollout to our nation's most vulnerable communities?
Facebook - now you’re restricting our own page?
It appears that the changes are affecting any info that is of public significance to Australians. At this point, no one knows what this means for the future of Facebook, and other social media, in Australia. It does however question the credibility of information posted to Facebook - remember that time we talked about Social Polarities? There are people who don’t even have Facebook that have somehow managed to stay informed all this time we’ve been mindlessly scrolling. So, some solutions for you:
Turn on notifications for your news app that was automatically downloaded onto your iphone
Download the free apps available from almost all news sources
Visit the ABC news website
Turn on the 5 oclock news
Go and buy the newspaper, or
Instagram still appears to allow news sources… for now.
We’ve become too comfortable as a society relying on social media to stay informed. The only real impact here is on our laziness. Your favourite sources have responded by letting you know other ways to find their content, it's up to you to go and find it.