Facebook bans Australian users and media from sharing news stories

Facebook is going to ban news from its platform in Australia. As a result, Australian users will no longer be able to share news on the platform, including from international media. Australian publishers are no longer allowed to post content on their Facebook pages.

The restrictions are in response to the proposed Australian Media Bargaining Act, Facebook writes. If passed, tech giants like Facebook and Google could be forced to pay news publishers for using their content. The bill has been with the Australian Parliament since Wednesday. The Australian government hopes to pass the amendment before February 25, writes NBC News. Google has now signed the first agreements with media companies.

Facebook states that the bill does not fit with the ‘relationship between Facebook and news publishers’. The company states that publishers voluntarily share their posts on the platform, unlike with search engines like Google. Therefore, news publishers would benefit more from the platform than the other way around. Facebook states that news stories account for less than four percent of the content shown in users’ timelines.

“The bill has left us with a difficult choice: to try to comply with a law that ignores the reality of this relationship, or to stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” writes William Easton, managing director at Facebook in Australia and New Zealand. “It is with a heavy heart that we choose the latter.”

Due to the restrictions, Australian users will no longer be able to share news items on the platform from now on. In addition, users from that country will no longer see news items in their feeds, not even from international media. Australian media outlets are banned from sharing content on Facebook altogether, but will still have access to Facebook Pages, Page Insights, Creator Studio, CrowdTangle and other company services.

The restrictions also affect international users and media. Since Australian media are completely banned from the platform, international Facebook visitors are also no longer allowed to share Australian news items on the social medium. International media may continue to share their own posts on the platform, but they will not be shown to users from Australia. Further functionality of Facebook services will remain the same for Australian users, the platform writes.

The company does not clarify whether Australian news stories will also be banned on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. The tech giant only mentions in its blog post that it will ban news messages on Facebook itself. Last year, the company already threatened to ban news items on its platform in Australia. At the time, the company explicitly stated that this would also apply to Instagram.

Facebook says it uses “a combination of technologies” to ban news content within Australia. The platform will also have processes in place to review content that is erroneously removed. Facebook does not provide details on this. Furthermore, the covid-19 information center will remain accessible to Australian Facebook users.

“We were willing to release Facebook News in Australia and significantly increase our investment in local publishers, but we were only willing to do so with the right rules,” Easton writes. “We will now prioritize investments in other countries as part of our plans to invest in new news programs and licensing experiences.”