• Carma Levene

Facebook to Remove News From Aussie News Feeds if Forced to Pay

The Australian government has taken the mind-boggling step of trying to force Facebook to pay for news content posted to the platform - and Facebook has responded with a big fat nope.


I'm sorry, what?

As marketers, we understand that we use social media platforms as a method of distribution. A way to bring people to our content. We all want more eyes on our images, more hits to our websites and more views on our vids.


And Facebook is pretty good at this...because it's win-win.


Facebook needs content to fill news feeds.


We need Facebook to show our content in news feeds.


Seems quite straight forward.


But the Australian government doesn't think so. Our federal government thinks Facebook is taking this content and should be paying for the privilege.


To me, this is a weird way of looking at it.


I mean it's not like Facebook is reading The Guardian, and publishing a Facebook post to its own 'news' page (let's call this hypothetical page FB News for the sake of argument) and stealing the clicks from The Guardian.


That would be cheeky. And if this was the case I'd likely have a different view of the situation. But publishers are volunteering the content to the platform in return for wider distribution, hoping for increased readership and with that, increased ad revenue.


So...?

If this legislation passes as intended it would see Facebook have to pay publishers - and we don't know if that's per post or per content piece (many news pieces are posted more than once) how much these posts will be worth, who sets the cost, and whether there's some kind of sliding scale for breaking news versus opinion pieces (surely one would be worth more than the other?)


It means some of the biggest news publishers in the country could be making a massive amount of revenue from Facebook.


Which on the surface could sound like a good thing. Traditional media revenue has been dropping due to a decrease in advertisers.


Maybe they'd have more money to pay journalists and editorial staff...but when I tell you that they posted a profit last year of A$228m...you might think they had enough money do have done this already and simply chose not to.


What next?

Facebook isn't here to f*ck spiders and released a statement to say that if this legislation goes through as intended, they would simply prevent news articles from being shared on the platform in Australia.


So basically, they won't be held to ransom. The first line of the statement is a doozy:

"Australia is drafting a new regulation that misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect."

"...misunderstands the dynamics of the internet.." is how I feel about it too.

Remember this same government trying to explain metadata?


And...

If this was really about journalistic integrity and protecting our free press, why have SBS and the ABC been excluded?


Surely as the non-commercial news media, they'd be the ones you could (almost) argue a reasonable case that could use money from Facebook as they'd likely sink it back into creating more content.


This is going to be huge. The Australian government isn't in the same weight class as Facebook, and Facebook is used to making adjustments to their services, so stopping new content being shared isn't an empty threat.


Will this mean more Fake News?

I'm not sure about that.


But I know for certain my news feed will look dramatically different. I'll visit sites like the ABC and The Guardian less often without being prompted by posts in my news feed.


What about you marketers?

What do you think about this stoush?


Carma