Facebook has prevented Australian media organizations and users from sharing news content on the platform, leading to an escalating disagreement between technology companies and the Australian government that could ultimately become a test case for media regulations and the way people news all over the world Consume the world.
The social media giant announced the decision in response to the government’s plans to force certain digital companies to pay Australian news organizations for content shared on their platforms. Facebook has questioned the idea, arguing that its platform generates billions of free referrals to Australian publishers, it said in a statement.
As of today, people in Australia will no longer be able to post links to news articles on Facebook, while content has been removed from the Facebook pages of Australian and international media organizations, including New scientist.
The timing of the news ban, just days before the Australian coronavirus vaccine rollout began, has been a cause for concern. “This will greatly exacerbate the misinformation on the platform,” says Belinda Barnet of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.
“They’re removing the primary source of timely, timely, and accurate information from their platform,” says Barnet. “It makes fun of your public commitment to fighting misinformation in the middle of a pandemic.”
“Our commitment to fighting misinformation on Facebook has not changed,” said Facebook in its statement on the ban. “We are instructing people to obtain relevant health information through our COVID-19 Information Center and to notify them of any new updates. We also continue our third party fact-checking partnerships. “
An estimated 39 percent of people in Australia use Facebook as a source of general news and now have to look elsewhere. “That means Australians have to learn the hard way that we can’t rely on Facebook for facts,” says Barnet. “We’re too dependent right now, we have to learn new ways to share and access information.”
Such a withdrawal has not taken place anywhere else in the world. “It’s a very open experiment on what it means for misinformation and news consumption,” says James Meese of RMIT University in Melbourne.
Other governments will be closely monitoring the outcome of Australian legislation, particularly in Canada, where media reform has recently been promoted, Meese says. “All over the world, people see Australia as a test case,” he says.
The ban initially also removed many non-news sites, including Australian health officials, emergency services and the national weather bureau. Charities, including a children’s cancer research institute and a domestic violence hotline, were also apparently affected.
A Facebook spokesman said New scientist that the sides of the Australian government should not be affected by the decision. “Since the law does not provide clear guidelines for defining news content, we have made a broad definition in order to respect the law as amended. However, we will reverse any pages that are accidentally affected. “
Google threatened last month to withdraw search engine services from Australia if they are subject to media regulations. However, the tech giant has since signed payment agreements with media companies including Seven West Media and News Corp and may be exempt from paying for news content to appear in Google searches.