Facebook Blocks News Articles in Australia to Avoid Paying for Links-news

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If you’re in Australia, you won’t be able to share this article on Facebook.

Facebook today made the stunning decision to block Australian users and media publishers from posting or viewing news content on the social network. The company did so to oppose a proposed law that would require Facebook and Google to pay local media publishers to link to their news articles. 

“Unfortunately, this means people and news organizations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted.”

The change is a huge blow to local media publishers in the country. At the same time, it raises questions over what kind of content will fill the void. Facebook says it had no choice but to enact the restriction, citing the proposed Australian media payment law, which could pass as soon as next week.  

Unlike Google, which goes out of its way to index news reports, Facebook is more of a platform where users and media publishers voluntarily post interesting articles, the social network claims. “The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” William Easton, Facebook’s managing director in Australia, wrote in the blog post.  

Australian Broadcasting Corp. Facebook page with no posts

Facebook pages for The Australian and Australian Broadcasting Corp. with no posts.

“Publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue,” he added. As an example, Facebook last year generated about 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian media publishers for an estimated $407 million in local dollars, Easton said. 

However, the company sees no reason to pay media publishers for their news articles. Instead, it could do without them. “For Facebook, the business gain from news is minimal. News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their News Feed,” Easton said. 

The news arrives a day after Australia’s government reportedly said both Facebook and Google were nearing deals to pay local media publishers. “We have made great progress,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. So the restriction is jarring, but it also might be a negotiating tactic.

Despite the ban, Facebook says it still plans on serving up authoritative health information related to COVID-19 to users in Australia. “Our commitment to remove harmful misinformation and provide access to credible and timely information will not change,” Easton added. 

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