Facebook bans news
Facebook has stopped Australians seeing news. Image – Canva.
  • Dispute over tech giants paying to display news has escalated
  • Proposed new law has angered Facebook, who has cut news from its site
  • Property practitioners can no longer share news items on their pages

Australia woke up to a ‘new normal’ this morning, as the massive media monolith that is Facebook had decided to cut any news from displaying on its site in Australia.

This is part of the ongoing dispute the media tech company has with Australian proposed legislation.

While Google had threatened to shut down its services (search engine, maps, perhaps everything?) over the new laws, they eventually settled when the proposals were tweaked. Over the past few days and weeks, the company has been doing individual deals with various news and media sites, mostly in the tens of millions of dollars.

Time will tell as to whether this is a negotiation tactic from Facebook, or whether this will be a long-term disruption to the news appearing on their site and app from now on.

Looking around their site, we can see that major news organisations’ Facebook pages are blank, and they can no longer share their articles. But the ban has been rather blanketly applied.

Some politicians Facebook pages have been affected – such as WA Liberal leader Zak Zirkup, even though Premier McGowan’s is up – and the Bureau of Meteorology has also seen its page wiped.

Facebook has already come out and said it will restore pages that were “inadvertently impacted.”

In a blog post, William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand, said that the proposed law “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between Facebook 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,” he said.

Meanwhile, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg put this message on Twitter:

“The morning, I had a constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg from #Facebook.

“He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward.” the Treasurer tweeted.

In a press conference broadcast live on television this morning, the Treasurer called Facebook “wrong”, saying this sudden action was “unnecessary and heavy-handed.”

“This will damage their reputation,” said Mr Frydenberg, “The media code has not even passed the Senate yet… and they have blocked important news from mental health services and weather warnings from Bureau of Meteorology.”

“It just shows the immense power of these digital giants, and why the Morrison government is committed to passing this media code.”

What this means

Australian publishers are restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook pages. International publishers can continue to do so, but those links and shares won’t be available to Australian users of Facebook.

With real estate agents and property practitioners using Facebook to communicate and connect with their own audience, they can continue what they are doing. However, they will not be able to share news articles for the time being, which is a practice many of them have been using.

Articles about ‘booming property markets’ or ‘low interest rates’ are shared on the platform to help validate what agents are seeing on the ground – massive interest in property, rising prices and shortfalls in supply.

The Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) is currently assessing the situation and the impact on the industry as a whole as Facebook has been an important channel to connect with Australian’s looking to buy and rent property.

REIA President, Adrian Kelly said they were confident real estate marketing will continue to reach its customers.

“We strongly advise them to sign up direct to their preferred source of news for listings for their housing needs,” he said.

“From a real estate sales perspective, buyers will go where the properties are being advertised which could ultimately be to Facebook’s detriment.

“Covid has proven that estate agents are very quick to adapt to new technologies and that will be the case in the current environment.

“As with COVID-19, for agencies and our customers, the show must go on,” Mr Kelly said.

The last time we checked, our own Facebook page was working fine.

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