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What Joy, Facebook Bans Australian News

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Or even, Facebook bans news in Australia.

The background here is that the Australian news outlets are guilty of cakeism. They say that they spend lots of money to produce news – they’re right so far. People post that to Facebook, or Facebook does, and the news producers thus get traffic. Also true. But Facebook makes money from showing ads to the people who get their news on – not just click through from – Facebook. Therefore the news producers should be paid by Facebook.

To which the correct answer is if Facebook thinks it’s worth paying the copyright fee then why the hell not? And if it doesn’t then what the hell? Which is where the cakeism because at this point the new Australian law insists that Facebook must pay and also everyone thinks that Facebook must run the news. To which Facebook has said, well, no:

The Australian government has been blindsided by Facebook suddenly blocking all news on the platform in Australia but says the “heavy-handed” move will not stop parliament from passing landmark laws to force tech giants to pay for journalism.

Australians woke up on Thursday to discover they couldn’t view or share news on the social network after Facebook blocked the content in an escalation of a row over whether it should have to pay media companies for displaying their content.

Think on what the demand is. The supermarket stocks steak. It applies a price to it. The demand now is that even if I don’t want any steak I must still buy it at the price set by the supermarket. Facebook must buy the news.

It’s a Guardian piece that gives us the components of our argument against this:

In the middle of a global pandemic and on the back of an announcement that it will ban fake news about vaccines, Facebook on Thursday announced that it is stopping Australians from sharing or viewing any real news in Australia.

The dramatic move comes as Australia is about to pass legislation that would force Facebook to negotiate fair payment for news content. Facebook previously warned that it would respond in this way and, unlike Google, has not announced its own deals with media organisations.

It is prepared to abandon the main source of fact-checked and accurate information on its platform to avoid falling under the news media bargaining code.

Well, to the extent that people believe what’s printed in the newspapers…..

The news media industry will suffer as a result of this: it is heavily reliant on referral traffic from Facebook.

Ah, right, so the news industry benefits from Facebook then. Good we’ve got that as a clear statement.

Facebook is shooting itself in the foot.

In deciding to remove the main source of fact-checked and accurate information on its platform, it has ensured that its product is suddenly less valuable.

Less valuable to whom? That’s the important question.

Sure, news on Facebook has a value to Facebook. The question is, what is that value? The only way to know what a value is is to test peoples’ willingness to pay it. A refusal to buy indicates that it’s not a value offer. Is Facebook buying? Then the price being charged is above its own decision on value.

And that’s it, isn’t it? We don’t go around forcing people to buy stuff after all.

At the end of all of this there is though the one good suggestion:

It is not going to be the platform that Australians can rely upon during an emergency, or to keep abreast of what is happening.

We are not going to be able to share news and we are not going to be able to access it – even from some government organisations, if Thursday is anything to go by. We will have to find alternative platforms and methods to keep informed.

We’ve already go that. Called newspaper websites. So, problem solved, we can all go home now, right?

Now go back to the beginning and think through all of this again. The demand is that Facebook must carry Oz news. Facebook must also pay for Oz news. At a price decided upon by government and the producers of news. Also, that if Facebook doesn’t like the price then it shouldn’t withdraw from presenting the news.

Is it any wonder that Facebook has told them all to bugger off?

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8 COMMENTS

  1. This is of course precisely the system in place for renewables. You are forced to buy them at the price set by the government. I don’t like that one either.

  2. It’s not “Facebook has banned Oz News” it’s “Facebook has chosen not to carry Oz news”. Only the Oz government can ban anything in Oz, and I doubt whether it’s in the realm of human ability to ban “news” – maybe the reporting and dissemination of news, but “news” per sey is a wotsit thing, it happens regardless of the opinions or actions of humans.

    “News” is a noun. You can’t ban nouns, banning is the prohibition of actions, “you may *DO* this, you may not *DO* this, you may *OWN* this, you may *REPORT* this”, you can’t “you may thing this”, actions are verbs, you can only ban verbs.

    • Do you have a link, Smithy? I wandered around Quillette, and didn’t see any mention of the issue – but perhaps I didn’t look hard enough…

      • Editor’s Note
        As you may have heard, Facebook has blocked Australian users from viewing or sharing news content on their platform. The mass-blocking is in response to new media laws proposed by the Australian Government which would mean that digital giants such as Facebook are required to pay for news content.

        I have been critical of the proposed media code. We did not expect to benefit from it at Quillette, and we generally take a neutral position on battles between legacy media corporations and multinational digital giants.

        But in resistance to the proposed laws, Facebook has now blocked Australian news sites, and Quillette has been included in the wide net that has been cast. Our Facebook page has been wiped and our links are blocked on the platform. If you would like to share a Quillette article on Facebook you will be unable to, even if you live outside of Australia.

        Currently, Facebook is our third source of traffic referral, with the platform having sent over six million readers our way since our inception. Losing this stream of traffic is a significant and unexpected blow, and it will impact our revenue.

        Other Facebook pages have also been caught in the dragnet. Australian Government Health Department pages, local Fire and Rescue services, weather services such as the Bureau of Meteorology and academic forums such as The Conversation have all been blocked. This is clearly a ham-fisted response. The proposed code has not been passed into law, yet Facebook is attempting to manoeuvre the Australian Government into submission.

        While we are currently working on a solution which will involve transferring the ownership of our Facebook page to a foreign holding company, we also need your help to withstand this shock.

        How you can help? First you can help our business model by donating directly to us. You can help us bypass social media by joining our dedicated discussion forum, the Quillette Circle, and until our Facebook page comes back online, you can follow my Facebook page for updates. See more at links below.

  3. The Grauniad refers to articles in newspapers as “fact-checked”. Well, there is the possibility that they are fact-checked and some newspapers ignore the checkers, or that they are fact-checked by somebody incompetent, or there is the possibility that they are not fact-checked at all – or that newspaper articles comprise a mixture of the three.
    But, based on my experience, I am never going to trust a Grauniad article unless I can check the “information” from a trustworthy source (which does *not* mean a reference to another article in the Grauniad).

  4. Perhaps Facebook should charge the Australian news sites a fee for linking customers to their news sources, just like adverts from firms that want to promote their products.

  5. I look forward to the day when The Guardian is blocked on Facebook.

    Wouldn’t it be great if The Guardian is blocked on all TW pages. As SovietMan Nikolai Vladivostock says,

    Blogs, Podcasts, Videos and Social Media Content

    Face it: most of the internet is full of shit. Blog posts are repetitive and often merely snark at an MSM article rather than offer something original. Podcasts waffle. Videos rehash stuff we’ve seen a million times before.

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expunct

in British English
expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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