Facebook has announced that it will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or even viewing Australian and international news content.

The ban, announced on 17 February, will also affect overseas Facebook users who will be unable to view or share Australian content. Facebook’s decision was made in response to a newly proposed Media Bargaining code in Australia. If passed, the legislation would allow the Australian government to force social media companies to pay for news content.

Read more: Facebook blocks Australian users from viewing or sharing news

The ban has impacted large and small publishers alike. Student journalist Maddie Date said, in a piece published by Australian public broadcaster ABC, “Facebook plays a significant part in student journalists being able to “make a name”.

In response to the ban, larger Australian news publishers such as ABC News have been promoting their different accessible platforms, such as the ABC iview app, Youtube, and Instagram. ABC Managing Director David Anderson has indicated intentions to continue discussions with Facebook.

“Despite key issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic having ongoing effects on all Australians, Facebook has today removed important and credible news and information sources from its Australian platform,” he said in a statement.

He also maintained that ABC’s digital news services will continue to remain free and accessible “to all Australians on the ABC website and via the ABC News app, providing independent and reliable news, information and analysis.”

Public broadcaster SBS Australia has similarly shared other ways its audiences can continue to access news.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the government will not be intimidated by Facebook’s decision. “I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian Government, as Google recently demonstrated in good faith,” Morrison said, referencing Google’s decision to pay for journalism from several global news sites.

The Media Bargaining Code was first made public in April 2020 when the Australian government asked the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to develop a mandatory code of conduct to target imbalances in bargaining power between Australian news companies and digital companies like Facebook and Google.  By late July, ACCC had announced the new code of conduct. Australia’s government has stood its ground on the code, which passed the lower house of parliament on Wednesday.

PMA will continue to monitor and report any developments.

Header Image: Sydney, Australia – October 18, 2014: The ABC Ultimo Centre, the headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Credit: lleerogers/istock