Facebook Almost Blocks News in Australia

Facebook Almost Blocks News in Australia

It’s been a busy few weeks over at Facebook HQ!

Let’s start at the beginning of the story.. On Thursday 18th of February 2021, Australians woke up not being able to access Facebook pages of local and international news sites anymore. Facebook officially blocked news local and international news in Australia. This was in response to the proposed Media Bargaining law, which requires websites to pay for every news content published in the country on their platform. 

Facebook Australia and New Zealand Managing Director, William Easton, issued an official statement on Facebook:

“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.”

However, a week after, Facebook restored pages of Australian news after the Australian government made amendments to the code. The said government stated that these amendments would give “further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses while strengthening the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated”. Facebook expressed its satisfaction with the amendments submitted on Thursday, leading to the restoration of the pages the day after.

Before the Agreement

Previously, Google has threatened to pull its services from Australia. However, they ended up bargaining for the payments with major Australian media outlets.  Facebook explains that the difference in the responses to the proposed law is parallel to their relationships with the news. According to Easton, news sites voluntarily publish their content on Facebook to gain more mileage, as opposed to Google and information being “inextricably intertwined”.

Easton also explains in their statement that Facebook acquires very minimal revenue from news content. However, the Australian government claims that for every A$100 spent on Australian media advertising, $81 goes to Google and Facebook. Hence, the proposal of the law to level the field.

The Government’s Initial Response

Despite Facebook already threatening to block news in Australia, they still left Australian authorities blindsided; they are denouncing the move. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that tech giants are trying to show that they are bigger than governments. Also, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg explicitly says that Facebook “damaged its reputation”. However, in his Twitter account, he explained that they are still communicating with Facebook to “find a pathway forward”.

What Could Have Happened?

If Facebook pushed through with blocking Australian news in its platform, these would have been its consequences:

  • Local news publishers can no longer publish their content on Facebook, but they can still access Insights, Creator Studio, and other page features.
  • Australians can no longer view any news stories on Facebook.

In a time of the pandemic, this affects the community as people are trying to get information about Covid-19. Facebook compromised by having the Covid-19 Information Centre, which connects people with vital health information.

What Does it Mean for Puzzle Media and Your Business?

As updates similar to this, may potentially happen in the future, it’s best for businesses to be proactive in exploring various marketing channels. Puzzle Media has always been hands on deck to ensure we adapt, not only for our company but most especially for our clients on board. 

We have digital marketing services that we can tailor for your needs, goals and the current situation. We’re always happy to assist. Please feel free to get in touch for any questions.