Publishers respond to Facebook’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’ removing news

Publishers including Nine, Guardian Australia, the ABC, and Junkee have responded to the announcement that, from today, Facebook will no longer carry news for local mastheads and users in retaliation to the News Media Bargaining Code.

A Nine spokesperson called it “unreasonable behaviour” which “nobody benefits from” and warned of misinformation spreading unchecked by news. However, the media company is still open to a deal with Facebook, just a day after it reportedly signed up to Google’s News Showcase program.

“It is unfortunate Facebook have taken this position and it will indeed inhibit us from sharing our quality news and information with Australians,” the spokesperson said.

“Nobody benefits from this decision as Facebook will now be a platform for misinformation to rapidly spread without balance. This action proves again their monopoly position and unreasonable behaviour.

“But today’s statement does not mean Facebook will not have to abide by the Federal Government’s proposed code. Value has already been transferred and Facebook has benefited from our content for many years. We should be able to access their monopoly platform and have the right to monetise our content as a result.

“We have been negotiating with Facebook in good faith and we remain willing to do a deal with them that provides a mutually beneficial outcome and ensures quality information is available to all Australians on their platform.”

Dan Stinton, managing director of Guardian Australia, told Mumbrella Facebook did not give the outlet any warning of its decision.

“Obviously Facebook is already struggling to moderate the mass of disinformation that is so prominent on its platform. The best antidote to this is the promotion of fact-based journalism, so this decision risks making the platform the permanent home of cat videos and conspiracy theories. Good luck to them,” he added.

“A small proportion of our traffic comes from Facebook, but I am confident that the Guardian’s audience will grow from this, as more people come to us directly to keep in touch with reality, so we welcome the opportunity to continue growing our advertising business off the back of meaningful engagement with important journalism.”

The ABC’s managing director, David Anderson, pointed out that ABC News is the number one news service in the country, topping Nielsen’s digital content rankings for a year.

Managing director David Anderson with ABC chair Ita Buttrose

“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,” Anderson said.

“We will continue our discussions with Facebook today following this development.”

Junkee’s editorial director, Rob Stott, drew attention to the impact the decision will have on small to medium publishers. In a recent senate committee hearing, which resulted in the group of senators endorsing the code, Stott and Junkee CEO Neil Ackland revealed that 75% of the youth publisher’s traffic comes from Facebook and Google.

“Junkee Media is disappointed by Facebook’s decision to remove news from Facebook in Australia,” Stott said in a statement.

“This decision will mean Australians no longer have access to a vital source of public interest journalism at a time when the truth has never been more valuable. This decision will undoubtedly have an outsized effect on small and medium-sized digital publishers, which will have a significant detrimental impact on the diversity of media voices available to Australians.

“We urge the federal government and Facebook to work constructively to find a solution to this issue that is workable for all parties.”

According to Facebook, News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in the Facebook News Feed.

Urban List’s founder and CEO, Susannah George, said Facebook’s call “will have a significant and detrimental impact far beyond the media landscape”.

“Until today, Urban List content has been regularly and freely shared — both by us and by fans — across Facebook, directing millions of dollars of discretionary spend to small businesses across Australia’s hospitality, event, startup and tourism sectors,” George remarked.

“The livelihood of many small businesses rely on the discretionary spend of Gen Y and Z and if the dominant channels young Australians turn to are quashed, then we risk cutting off a significant income stream for local and regional businesses at a time when they need it the most.

“Despite the best of intent, the draft code has squashed the upward momentum of digital-first publishing platforms in a real blow to the diversity and vibrancy of the Australian media landscape.”

Small publisher Man of Many commented that while it disagrees with Facebook’s decision, “we do understand the rationale behind it as we believe the proposed code was unworkable in its current form, particularly for publishers to be paid for content that they voluntarily share to such platforms”.


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