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Facebook backs down on news ban

26 February 2021 Bianca Dabu
Facebook

Following discussions with the Australian government, Facebook has announced the reinstatement of the sharing of news on its service in the country.

Just over a week after the ban was announced, Australians can once again access local and international news through Facebook and share news links and news page posts on their feed, a statement from Facebook revealed on 24 February 2021.

The ban was initially in response to the Australian government’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code Legislation.

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Facebook said that the law, as it was proposed, would have forced them to pay “potentially unlimited amounts of money to multinational media conglomerates”, without the guarantee that it will be used to pay for journalism or support small publishers.

“It’s like forcing car makers to fund radio stations because people might listen to them in the car — and letting the stations set the price,” Facebook’s vice-president for global affairs, Nick Clegg, commented.

“We neither take nor ask for the content for which we were being asked to pay a potentially exorbitant price.”

According to the vice-president, the removal of news from their platform in Australia was their only option, apart from providing open-ended subsidies to multinational media conglomerates.

Contrary to the notion that the decision was somehow abrupt and dramatic, Mr Clegg said that Facebook has indicated six months ago that it might be forced into implementing the ban due to the proposed legislation, and the company has been in discussion with the Australian government for three years to explain why the proposed law, without amendments, “was unworkable”.

“Thankfully, after further discussion, the Australian government has agreed to changes that mean fair negotiations are encouraged without the looming threat of heavy-handed and unpredictable arbitration,” the vice-president said.

Moving forward, Facebook said that it is looking at alternative approaches to partner with news publishers, including a $1 billion investment to support the news industry over the next three years.

Real estate impact

As a result of the ban implemented last week, many real estate agencies and agents found that they have been impacted in their ability to publish to their Facebook pages.

Listing platforms such as realestate.com.au and Domain, which have been classed as “news” providers, also found that links from their sites — and consequently, listings — could not be pushed out onto the platform.

The Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) acknowledged that Facebook is “an important channel for real estate to connect with Australians.

However, REIA president Adrian Kelly had said in a statement that he remains confident that real estate marketing will thrive and ultimately continue to reach its customers regardless, as proven by the resilience of agents during the pandemic.

“COVID has proven that estate agents are very quick to adapt to new technologies… As with COVID-19, for agencies and our customers, the show must go on,” the president commented.

Domain’s chief commercial officer, Tony Blamey, also attested to the strength of real estate’s online presence, saying that their audience numbers remain strong and website traffic continues to trend upwards.

Further, social boost and sponsored content are still running and performing normally, Mr Blamey said.

At the end of the day, the action from Facebook only served as a warning to agents against putting all their eggs in one basket, according to Bespoke Media Group CEO Nic Fren.

“I urge business owners to reassess their websites and put the time into them to become the go-to for information. Don’t put all your focus in the one platform… [It’s] vital to build a profile on all sites in case of events like these,” Mr Fren concluded.

Facebook backs down on news ban
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