Facebook bans all Australian news and government pages - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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The Guardian wrote:Time to reactivate MySpace': the day Australia woke up to a Facebook news blackout
Facebook users flocked to Twitter to complain about the ban, which also struck community pages, health departments, charities and politicians

At 5.30am Australian east coast time, after months of threats and failed attempts to lobby the government over proposed new media laws, Facebook banned the sharing of news in Australia.

The first to notice were morning news producers. The main page of the national broadcaster, ABC, was down. Guardian Australia’s page was also down. Australians trying to post links to news publishers on their personal Facebook pages received an error message.

Australia’s media bargaining code, which will force tech giants Facebook and Google to broker deals with Australian publishers to pay for linking to news content, passed its first major parliamentary hurdle this week. Google responded by negotiating a reported $30m deal with Australia’s largest locally owned media company. Facebook pulled the plug.

But Facebook’s snap ban did not just affect Australia’s news publishers.

On Twitter, which has so far escaped the reach of Australia’s proposed media code by dint of never making any money, the screenshots began to roll in.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology, which uses its Facebook page to deliver climate updates and severe weather warnings, was blocked. So too was the Western Australian Department of Fire and Emergency Services, which earlier this month was issuing evacuation warnings for a bushfire that destroyed 86 homes in the Perth hills. In a statement, DFES said it had contacted Facebook “and they have assured us they will restore the page as a priority”.

State health departments, where daily coronavirus figures and information about potential exposure sites are listed, were deleted, as was the official page for the governments of the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania.

So too was St Vincent’s Health, a hospital in Melbourne that is soon to begin distributing the first coronavirus vaccines in Australia. On Twitter, the organisation said it was “extremely concerning” to find its page had been blocked “during a pandemic and on the eve of a crucial Covid vaccine distribution”.

1800 Respect, a family violence service, was blocked, as were homelessness services, other crisis centres and women’s shelters. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander media pages servicing small, often remote communities were gone.

The leader of the opposition in Western Australia, Zak Kirkup, had his page blocked, three weeks out from the state election, but the premier’s page remained intact. On Twitter, the only place left to be, Kirkup joked: “Alright time to reactivate my MySpace account.”

Facebook even blocked its own page.

The sudden national blackout of legitimate information sources appeared to some to expose the hollowness of Facebook’s prior claims that it was unable to suppress hate speech or pages spreading dangerous misinformation, and its failure to respond to reports of abuse.

With sufficient motivation, like the prospect of having to pay to link to news content, the social media giant was able to act swiftly, they said.

At 8am, the federal treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, tweeted that he’d had a “constructive discussion with Mark Zuckerberg” about the media code, and said the two parties had agreed “to try to find a pathway forward”.

The conversation went for half an hour. The pair also spoke on the weekend, but Frydenberg said he was not warned the ban was coming.

At 11am, Facebook released a non-apology, saying that government pages should not be impacted by its decision to ban news but also that the broad definition of news in the legislation was to blame. It did not explain why, despite having threatened this action for weeks, it didn’t check that the filter was working as intended first.

“As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “However, we will reverse any pages that are inadvertently impacted.”

This prompted an escalation of the government’s language. “Facebook was wrong,” Frydenberg told reporters at a midday press conference.

“Facebook’s actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia,” he said.

Frydenberg said the decision to block government pages was “completely unrelated to the media code”, which still has to be debated in the Senate before it becomes law. But he said the government was committed to the reforms, and said Facebook’s actions “confirm for all Australians [the] immense market power of these media digital giants”.

It is not clear whether Facebook, which has 2.89bn monthly active users and a net worth of US$780bn, is concerned about any reputational damage that may arise from blocking potentially lifesaving information for 11.23 million Australians.

Frydenberg’s press conference was livestreamed on Facebook, but the feed stopped working several minutes in.

Meanwhile, the Australian communications minister, Paul Fletcher, was fielding calls from the admin of the Facebook group North Shore Mums, which was also caught up in the ban.

It did not take Australians long to discover a workaround. News links via third-party aggregators still worked, as did links to tweets containing links to news articles. Links to news articles could also be shared in Facebook messenger, including via chatbots.

By 1pm, the Bureau of Meteorology, 1800 Respect, and a number of other government and community pages were back online. News sites were not.
I don’t think Facebook cares. All the news outlets here are running op-eds on how the move is going to backfire and how it’s shortsighted and Zuckerberg is going to regret it and blah blah blah. And I just don’t think it will effect Facebook...
Rugoz wrote:I find it weird that Facebook and co. have to pay for linking to news content. Unless they show a significant part of the text with it.

That said, fuck Facebook, it's worthless. Australia should ban it completely.

I too find it hard to know what Murdoch et al. have been complaining about recently, that has created this Australian law.

Google used to have a "first click free" system, which people used to get round paywalls when accessing articles via Google News. But that was replaced in 2017 with "Flexible Sampling", which seems to me to give the publishers the ability to protect their content behind a paywall while getting the headline or first sentence or so shown on Google News - which seems a good way to advertise your content (just as news providers do with their own accounts on Twitter).

But Google and Facebook were the 2 main targets of the law; Google has just agreed to start paying Murdoch titles, and others, for the news from them that Google displays. I can't see why Google was targetted.

Facebook, on the other hand, does have users who can happily copy whole articles and then post them, so I can see there's a copyright problem there. If Facebook can't police its users, then it either has to ban the whole content, or accept that whatever users put up, it'll have to foot the bill for, which it might find expensive.
Facebook has also barred Australians from finding or sharing news on its service. While Google last year said it would start to pay some publishers like News Corp, which owns media outlets including Fox News and New York Post, for stories because news stories on Google are generated by the company, Facebook is not obliged to pay for what their users do. Just disabling the news sharing option is good enough. Facebook should not be intimidated by Australia to folk out billions of dollars to enrich hateful news sites owned by News Corp.
Last edited by ThirdTerm on 19 Feb 2021 07:46, edited 2 times in total.
The pile-on of Facebook seems extraordinary to me:

Facebook under fire over move to 'bully democracy' in Australia

Politicians, news providers and civil society groups in the UK and US have rounded on Facebook and said the company’s decision to block all media content on its platform in Australia should hasten moves to bring its powers under control.

In a step condemned as “an attempt to bully a democracy” and “threatening to bring an entire country to its knees”, Facebook stopped its 18 million Australian users from viewing or sharing news stories overnight in an escalating row over whether it should have to pay media companies for its content. It said the new rules “ignore the realities” of its relationship with news publishers.

While Google has struck preemptive deals with several outlets ahead of the introduction of Australia’s news media code, Facebook’s defiance of legislators prompted fierce attacks in Australia and on both sides of the Atlantic.

After Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, called the company’s actions “as arrogant as they were disappointing”, Julian Knight, the chair of the British parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport committee, said: “This action - this bullyboy action – that they’ve undertaken in Australia will I think ignite a desire to go further amongst legislators around the world.”

Knight said that the battle was now “a real test case” for how tech giants should be regulated and asked to pay for content.

His view was echoed in the US, where David Cicilline, who chairs the influential House antitrust committee, suggested that the move was “not compatible with democracy.”

“Threatening to bring an entire country to its knees to agree to Facebook’s terms is the ultimate admission of monopoly power,” the Democrat said on Twitter, posting a link to an article on Facebook’s decision.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/ ... -democracy

I just don't get this. The Australian parliament is about to pass a law saying "Facebook must pay for news articles that appear on it", and Facebook has decided that means "OK, no news articles. You can get them by going to the news providers websites (or Google, if that wants to 'showcase' the articles)". This decision to not enter into contracts with Murdoch etc. is a normal business decision (and, you could also argue, a decision on with whom Facebook wants to associate).

But politicians round the world are reacting as if Facebook has just shut down the whole World Wide Web in Australia. I can see that including the government pages in the shutdown was a shit move, whether by negligence or spite. That will make Facebook look unreliable to its users. But talk of "threatening democracy" and "bringing a country to its knees" is bullshit. The country, and democracy, does not depend on Facebook.
Prosthetic Conscience wrote:This decision to not enter into contracts with Murdoch etc. is a normal business decision (and, you could also argue, a decision on with whom Facebook wants to associate).

A normal business decision for a monopolist. Without its dominant market position Facebook couldn't afford to remove all media content. The politicians were just too dumb to realize this was an antitrust issue*.

*or rather they thought Zuckerberg was actually human :lol:

It's certainly true that Facebook is a monopoly problem. It ought never to have been allowed to buy Instagram or WhatsApp, for instance, and should be forced to make them independent now. Google ought to be forced to split YouTube off.

Ironically, Murdoch owns over 50% of Australian print newspaper “average issue readership”: https://www.theguardian.com/news/databl ... -the-world (though only 27% of online readership - only just the biggest player). That's why I don't think forcing companies to pay him is a particularly good idea.
Left-wing papers basically capitulated in Australia due to their stubborn insistence on sticking to the somewhat outdated broadsheet format.

Rupert went with Broadsheet National (The Australian) and Tabloid locals like the Herald-Sun(highest circulation newspaper in Australia).

Fact is the majority of centre and right-leaning Australians still like him.

Facebook banned the Astor Theatre in St Kilda Melbourne because they stupidly thought it was the Perth one run by the WA State Government, and/or flagged it as a "movie news" outlet.

Prosthetic Conscience wrote:Facebook, on the other hand, does have users who can happily copy whole articles and then post them, so I can see there's a copyright problem there. If Facebook can't police its users, then it either has to ban the whole content, or accept that whatever users put up, it'll have to foot the bill for, which it might find expensive.

I don't think thats the main issue that prompted the legislation.

The rationale behind the proposed law is that google and facebook both make a lot of money from advertisers when they provide links to old media articles. Even though this undoubtedly results in greater exposure and therefore greater revenue for the old media - they surmise that google and facebook are making much more money from the arrangement than they are. They therefore think its unfair, and they should get a cut of google and facebook's money making bonanza.

Its a transparently ridiculous proposition - Murdoch (and lets face it, this is overwhelmingly being driven by Murdoch) is literally complaining that the companies that are giving them free exposure, are getting more money from the deal than they are - even though he is unquestionably benefiting financially too. And therefore those companies somehow "owe" them a cut of their profit. Its a bit like if a coffee shop allowed other businesses to freely post advertisements on their premises - and because this just happens to draw more customers to that coffee shop and generate more revenue for them - the businesses that *BENEFIT* from the free advertising act all indignant because they think they are entitled to the coffee shop's profits as well.
colliric wrote:I left Facebook a long time ago and disabled my account..... But I don't have the guts to cut off Twitter....

I still have a Facebook profile, but I use Facebook as a news source rather than for keeping contact.

I've never really been on Twitter. I created an account, but I barely remember, as if I was drunk or something. :lol:
Rancid wrote:I'm no fan of facebook, but I don't see the problem here.

They locked a famous Melbourne Cinema out of their account because they stupidly labelled the account "Entertainment News" and/or mistoke it for the State Government owned theatre in WA.

Alot of non-news non-government accounts would have been blocked "accidentally" as a result of this moronic childish response from Facebook management.
Rancid wrote:I'm no fan of facebook, but I don't see the problem here.

The main 'problem' is for facebook, as its been a bit of a PR disaster for them.

Hoovering up things like emergency weather warnings (while we are having serious flooding in Queensland) and domestic violence services in their ban is not such a great look. Nor is blocking all legitimate news information about Covid - while allowing anti-vaxer conspiracy theories to stay.

But of course thats the free market in action - facebook has absolutely no obligation to continue providing a free platform for these sites.

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