Australian users cannot see news posts.
Recently, the Australian government proposed new legislation that would require all social media platforms to pay for links posted to their sites by Australian news outlets. Some social media managers like Google have chosen to strike deals with these outlets to reach agreeable financial terms, while others, like Facebook, have chosen to back out altogether.
In response to Australia’s legislation, Facebook is now preventing any users accessing their site from Australia from viewing any news posts or links. The Facebook page of the BBC, for example, now has a completely blank timeline when viewed from an Australian account.
“Today we made an incredibly difficult decision to restrict the availability of news on Facebook in Australia,” said Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships Campbell Brown. “What the proposed law introduced in Australia fails to recognize is the fundamental nature of the relationship between our platform and publishers.”
This decision was almost immediately met with blowback from Australian legislators, news outlets, and Facebook users. “Despite key issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic having ongoing effects on all Australians, Facebook has today removed important and credible news and information sources from its Australian platform,” David Anderson, managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said in a statement.
“Facebook has exponentially increased the opportunity for misinformation, dangerous radicalism and conspiracy theories to abound on its platform,” Lisa Davies, editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.
Facebook began disabling posts on pages late on Wednesday, though in the process, they inadvertently disabled numerous government and community resource pages, such as weather forecasts, public health reports, domestic violence resources, and more. Facebook has acknowledged this mistake and has said they are working to reverse it, though they are still holding fast on their position on news publications.
“It is kind of a stark reminder of the control that they have over what people see and obviously with respect to people who use Facebook as their primary source of news,” said Enrique Armijo, a fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project.
“This could have serious consequences. And I think any government that’s trying to be kind of interventionist in this area is going to be more mindful now that Facebook,” he said, “at least has the intention of shutting down news access on the platform entirely.”