Facebook blocks Australians from viewing and sharing news

Move comes in response to Australia's new media bargaining law that came into effect overnight.

Facebook is restricting publishers and Australian social media users from sharing or viewing Australian and international news in that market, making good on its past warning that it might do so. 

The stark move was announced in an overnight blog post by Australia and New Zealand managing director, Will Easton after Australian legislators approved the country's controversial news media bargaining code, which Facebook argues overvalues the "minimal" business gains it receives from published news on its platform.  

The upshot of Facebook's refusal to abide by Australia's code is stark:

  • Australian publishers are now restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages.

  • Global publishers can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts can’t be viewed or shared by Australian audiences. 

  • Australians cannot view or share Australian or international news content on Facebook or content from Australian and international news pages 

  • Global Facebook users now cannot view or share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news Pages 

To do this, Facebook says it will employ technology to restrict news content but also has processes to review any inadvertent removal of content. 

Facebook's decision appears to diverge from Google, the other internet platform targeted by Australia's legislation, which had begun tests to hide news content from search in Australia, but has now struck historic deals with Newscorp and other Australian broadcasters to pay for news content in recent days in anticipation of the legislation.  

Easton addressed the different paths in his post, saying: "We understand many will ask why the platforms may respond differently. 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. On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue."

Facebook argues published news makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their Facebook news feeds. While Google is cutting deals for its News Showcase product in Australia, Easton says Facebook was prepared to reach deals with local publishers and launch Facebook News but was "only prepared to do this with the right rules in place."  The platform has argued in the past that the deal arbitration process and algorithm change requirements demanded by the code are unworkable. 

This story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific

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