Facebook last Thursday made good on its threat to block news content in Australia in response to the federal government’s proposed new media bargaining law.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the decision by Facebook removed “authoritative” news sources from its platform at a time when the credibility of information on it was being questioned.
“It goes to the central issue that has underpinned why we have been developing this news media bargaining code, which is the competition policy issue, going to the market power of Facebook and Google,” Mr Fletcher said.
“One of the reasons there is a concern is because it’s very important that we have a diverse and well-resourced news media sector in Australia. That’s a critical part of our democracy.”
The government led the world in December 2017 by directing the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate competition in the media and advertising services market, as concern grew over the future of public interest journalism around the world.
Google is currently negotiating with Australian media companies, including with independent local newspapers and members of Country Press Australia.
But in a statement issued by Facebook last week, William Easton, managing director of Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, said the proposed law fundamentally misunderstood the relationship between the platform and publishers who used 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.
McEwen MP Rob Mitchell said local media was the only source of local news that our communities could rely on and would be severely impacted by the ban.
“They are small, independently-owned organisations that we rely on to tell us what’s going on in council; what’s happening in our neighbourhoods; about new developments in our towns and local issues that affect us. They also provide a forum for local people to have their say,” Mr Mitchell said.
“To survive in the digital age where so many people get their news from social media, these media organisations have had to expand their digital platforms to include Facebook, which directs people to their websites.
“This ban that Facebook has imposed, like some kind of schoolyard bully, has had a devastating impact on these organisations that are now suffering a dive in traffic to their websites.
“Our news media is concerned they are unable to post important breaking news to their communities, such as health updates, transport issues, emergency warnings and more.”
Midland Express editor Angela Crawford said that despite the blow to the broader dissemination of our news content via the platform, Facebook couldn’t ban local newspapers.
“Without news content, Facebook will be no more than a platform for cat videos, photos of food and fake unregulated news,” Ms Crawford said.
“Local journalism is more relevant than ever before, as a trusted source of news and information.
“If you want to read our stories pick up a copy of the paper or visit our website at www.midlandexpress.com.au.
“If you want to share our news, pass a copy of the paper on to your neighbours and friends.
“You can also keep up to date with our headlines and feature stories on Twitter and Instagram.”

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