Friday, April 19, 2024

What Facebook’s decision to quit news means for local followers

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Facebook’s announcement it will no longer support news on its platform means that members of community pages where Yanchep News Online now posts will instead need to follow the local publisher’s Facebook page to be able to access that content.

But Yanchep News Online, who has never been part of a deal with Facebook is also concerned that if the Australian Government and Facebook get into a stoush over the social media platform’s decision to stop supporting news in Australia it could result in another news ban.

Some may remember that when Facebook instigated its Australian news ban in February 2021 for about eight days readers could no longer access – at least on Facebook – any of the public interest journalism content provided by your small hyperlocal publisher.

If Facebook does introduce a news ban and Yanchep News Online’s Facebook page is affected readers can subscribe to the Yanchep News Online newsletter

On Friday Facebook said people use Facebook to connect with other people and discover new opportunities, passions and interests not for news and political content 

“As we previously shared in 2023, news makes up less than 3 per cent of what people around the world see in their Facebook feed and is a small part of the Facebook experience for the vast majority of people,’’ Facebook said.

As editor I would argue that things such as bushfire alerts, traffic accidents, decisions made by local, state and federal governments, missing person alerts, court appearances and police briefs – some of the public interest journalism provided by Yanchep News Online – even if they are only a small percentage of what people see in their feed are all important and of value to community Facebook pages such as Two Rocks/Yanchep Residents Open Page & Security Awareness.

From early April the social media giant will longer support or maintain Facebook News, a dedicated tab for news content, in Australia and said it will not enter into new commercial deals for traditional news content and will not offer new Facebook products specifically for news publishers in the future.

Macquarie University journalism and communications professor Peter Greste said it was hard to criticise Meta for deciding the deals with publishers were not worth it

“The company is doing what it is supposed to, making hard-headed commercial decisions and maximising shareholder returns,’’ he said.

“But Meta’s interests are not the same as the Australian public’s.

“Or more accurately, Meta’s interests are not the same as our democracy’s.

“Meta doesn’t need high-quality news, particularly if its users are more interested in sharing family photos than sober reporting on inflation rates.

“But collectively, our society does need it.’’

Apparently, Facebook followers don’t place much value on the kind of news produced by Yanchep News Online and other public interest journalism publishers with Meta saying they don’t go to Facebook for news or political content.

Mr Greste said the deals were always to going to fall apart and suggested a news levy something like Medicare – that recognised even if news was not consumed equally, Australians would be collectively better off by having good journalism that’s free from commercial or political pressure.

Facebook said news publishers in Australia and the US, would continue to have access to their Facebook accounts and pages, where they could post links to their stories and direct people to their websites, in the same way any other individual or organisation can but Yanchep News Online is concerned that may change depending on what action the Australian Government takes.

Soon after Facebook made the announcement, which was not entirely unexpected as it deprecated Facebook News in the UK, France and Germany last year, the Australian government responded with Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones saying the government was committed to the News Media Bargaining Code and was seeking advice from Treasury and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on the next steps.

“We will now work through all available options under the News Media Bargaining Code,’’ they said.

“The government will continue to engage with news publishers and platforms through this process.

“The Albanese Government is committed to promoting a strong, sustainable and diverse media sector given its vital importance to our democracy and social cohesion.’’

The Morrison Government introduced the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code in 2021 to help support the sustainability of public interest journalism in Australia.

University of Technology Sydney visiting fellow Rob Nicholls said Facebook’s decision meant the Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers could ‘designate’ “Meta under the code and force it to the bargaining table, or he can agree that news is not a driver of Facebook use

Former ACCC chairman Rod Sims told The Guardian it was up to the ministers to determine whether the powers to force Meta (the owner of Facebook) to negotiate should be used, but said it was likely Meta would use the current ban on news links in Canada as a threat of what it could do in response.

University of Technology Sydney associate professor Diana Bossio said when the Canadian government attempted to enforce compliance with the introduction of their own code in 2023 it led to Meta (and Google) announcing they would block Canadian news content from their platforms.

“While Google eventually acquiesced to a lesser payment, Meta have continued the ban, leaving Canadians in news limbo,’’ she said.

This readers is what Yanchep News Online is concerned about so if you value your local news follow the Yanchep News Online Facebook page and sign up for the Yanchep News Online newsletter.

  • Yanchep News Online does not have a deal with Facebook but does have a deal with Google as a member of the Public Interest Publishers Alliance, who were able get a seat at the negotiation table to collectively bargain with the support of the Minderoo Foundation.

This article appeared on Yanchep News Online on 3 March 2024.


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