Facebook is going news-free in Australia as the country is steps away from forcing it to pay for the news shared on its platform.
Facebook’s decision stands in contrast to one from Google, which opted to strike multi-million dollar contracts with big media brands in Australia ahead of the implementation of new legislation that’ll force tech giants in Australia to fork over cash for news.
“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,” wrote William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia & New Zealand in a blog post. “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.”
Posts from Aussie publishers disappeared for some users from Facebook just two hours after the announcement from the tech giant, according to NBC News’ Bianca Britton and BBC’s Frances Mao.
Australians can’t see any news stories on Facebook this morning after the company banned local users from posting article links. Both local and international outlets are blocked. E.g. This is what the BBC looks like in Australia pic.twitter.com/SJ4XBM8RnC
— Frances Mao (@francesmao) February 17, 2021
Google had earlier threatened to leave the country if the law passed, but instead hit the negotiating table. In recent days, Google has made financial agreements with a number of news platforms — including News Corp, run by Rupert Murdoch, for an unreported amount and broadcaster Seven West Media for an estimated US$30 million — and is reportedly in talks with a number of others, in an effort to preemptively take action in advance of the well-supported media bill becoming law. Facebook has opted to not pay, noting in the blog post that “the business gain from news is minimal” and that news composed “less than 4% of the content” people see in their news feeds.
Interestingly, Australian searches for news are also just a small piece of Google’s pie. However, Google has said blocking news links and news snippets from media publishers will have far-reaching effects on its code. Facebook doesn’t have the same fears.
There are huge ramifications for news in Australia moving forward:
Australian publishers are restricted from sharing or posting any content on their Facebook pages.
International publishers can still post to Facebook, but links and posts won’t be able to be viewed in Australia.
Australian users cannot post or share news on Facebook.
Non-Australian users cannot view or share news from Australian publishers on Facebook.
Facebook argued that while a platform like Google is irreversibly connected to news — Google searches surface news links, whether or not platforms want that — publishers make the choice to post on Facebook. The social giant argued in its blog that it helps publishers more than publishers help it.
Publishers choose to share their stories on Facebook because they get value from doing so, from finding new readers to getting new subscribers. We provide free tools, products and programs to support their goals.
— Campbell Brown (@campbell_brown) February 17, 2021
Google had initially played a game of chicken with Australia, in regards to the impending new law, and threatened to pull its search engine from the country. In response, Australia threatened to migrate to Microsoft’s search engine Bing. Eventually, Google worked around the proposed rules and Australians didn’t suffer the uneasy fate of being the Bing Nation. As part of the law, Google will also have to share changes to its algorithm with news companies ahead of time. There’s already speculation that other countries are eyeing Australia and may one day make similar plays. Big Tech is also facing antitrust backlash in the U.S.
It’s unclear what will happen when Facebook is suddenly absent of news in Australia. It’s possible news outlets suffer — it stands to reason their web traffic would dip. And it’s possible that without real news, misinformation will fill the empty spaces on folks’ news feeds.
UPDATE: Feb. 17, 2021, 3:32 p.m. EST This post was updated to include more information about and images of what Australian news outlets’ Facebook pages look like after Facebook cut them off.
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ที่มา : Mashable