Businesses say Facebook's ban on news could end their websites

Businesses say Facebook’s ban on news could prove to be fatal for their online websites – plunging hundreds of hardworking Australians out of work

  • Australian news and lifestyle websites face uncertain future in media landscape
  • Comes after social media giant Facebook pulled news content from its page
  • The likes of The Urban List and Junkee Media rely on their Facebook presence
  • Facebook said a ‘code change’ was poorly worded and not in their best interests

A number of popular Australian news and lifestyle businesses fear Facebook’s shock ban on news content could prove fatal for their websites in the long-term.

The global social media giant pulled a series of Australian-produced news websites from its platform on Thursday after failing to persuade the federal government to alter aspects of a proposed code.

The code change would force Facebook into commercial arrangements with news organisations. 

While major news organisations owned by the likes of News Corp and Fairfax Media, who run websites including The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald weren’t majorly affected, smaller news publishers were left reeling by Facebook’s bold business decision. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured above) labelled Facebook’s decision ‘arrogant’ on Thursday

Susannah George, who created lifestyle website The Urban List, said the war over the government’s media code could see the end of independent digital websites.   

‘Facebook’s decision to restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing not just hard news, but any content originating from a publisher, will have a significant and detrimental impact far beyond the media landscape,’ she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

‘Despite the best of intent, the news media bargaining code has squashed the upward momentum of digital-first publishing platforms and is a real blow to the diversity and vibrancy of Australian media.’

Popular satirical website The Betoota Advocate could also fold, while Junkee Media, whose target audience is primarily the digital savvy youth market, expects Facebook’s decision to be ‘significantly detrimental’. 

‘We urge the federal government and Facebook to work constructively to find a solution to this issue that is workable for all parties,’ Rob Stott, Junkee Media’s editorial director, said. 

William Easton, Facebook Australia’s managing director, felt the social media giant was backed into a corner after failing to reach a suitable agreement with the government over media codes.

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison blasted Facebook, labelling the vastly popular platform ‘arrogant and disappointing’.

‘These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of big tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that rules should not apply to them,’ he said in a statement.

‘This decision sees Facebook effectively ‘unfriending’ Australia.’

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was just as critical, stating Facebook jumped the gun by shutting down access to news pieces with zero notice.

‘Their decision to block Australians’ access to government sites – be they about support through the pandemic, mental health, emergency services, the Bureau of Meteorology – were completely unrelated to the media code which is yet to pass through the Senate,’ he said.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured above) felt his company had ‘no choice’ but to pull news content from its platform

The likes of Junkee Media (pictured above), satirical website The Betoota Advocate and The Urban List may struggle to survive if their content isn’t available on Facebook

‘What today’s events do confirm for all Australians is the immense market power of these media digital giants. 

‘We want digital giants paying traditional news media businesses for generating original journalistic content. ‘This is critical to sustaining public interest journalism in this country, and this is world-leading.’

In response, the social media giant claims it was left with no choice, arguing the bargaining media code is poorly worded.

‘As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted,’ a Facebook spokesman said in a statement.

‘However, we will reverse any pages that are inadvertently impacted.’

FACEBOOK’S CHANGES TO NEWS IN AUSTRALIA

Facebook has restricted publishers and social media users in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.

What does this mean for Australian news organisations?

Australian news organisations will be restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages

Admins will still be able to access Page insights and Creator Studio on their Facebook pages

Facebook said they will continue to provide access to other standard services, including data tools and CrowdTangle

What does this mean for international news organisations?

International news organisations can still post on Facebook but Australian users will not be able to see the content or share it

What does this mean for Australian Facebook users?

Australian Facebook users will not be able to view or share Australian or international news content

What does this mean for international Facebook users?

International Facebook users will not be able to view or share Australian news content on Facebook

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