Shots fired folks. Facebook is threatening to ban news! To stop allowing users to share news articles on Facebook and Instagram if the new ACCC News media bargaining code comes into force.

It’s a pretty simple response, far moreso than Google’s threats and warnings.

Facebook’s Australian Managing Director Will Easton penned the company’s response today, saying the ACCC ” ignored important facts, most critically the relationship between the news media and social media and which one benefits most from the other.”

His response was utterly clear “Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram.”

And the next point made is perhaps the most interesting of all – calling the code “an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector.”

User on Facebook on Mobile and PC

There’s some merit to that claim. Facebook says they sent 2.3 billion clicks from Facebook News feed articles to Aussie news websites in the first five months of 2020 – that’s huge.

No news site has to pay for those clicks, yet the ACCC is saying that Facebook should pay to have the content shared on it’s site.

All a bit strange really, but it’s an attempt to address the immense imbalance in the advertising market today, which sees Facebook and Google getting billions of dollars that once might have gone to those media outlets.

What is news, and can news survive with a Facebook News Ban?

The real question is, can those outlets survive without the clicks that come from Facebook?

Additionally – what is a news site? Is EFTM going to stop being shared on Facebook?

And how? Is Facebook going to block certain URLs from being shared?

Someone’s going to have their bluff called here.

Google will be hoping lots of Aussies sent submissions to the ACCC about all this, while Facebook chose to respond publicly after the submission period had closed.

How Facebook wanted to work

Facebook say they had planned to launch Facebook News in Australia, saying it is “a feature on our platform exclusively for news, where we pay publishers for their content. Since it launched last year in the US, publishers we partner with have seen the benefit of additional traffic and new audiences. 

However, that was rejected “Instead, we are left with a choice of either removing news entirely or accepting a system that lets publishers charge us for as much content as they want at a price with no clear limits. Unfortunately, no business can operate that way

It’s hard not to see their argument here, but it’s also hard to see how they can restrict what users are sharing on their platform.

Can Facebook Ban News sharing?

If my brother chooses to share an article from the SMH to his Facebook feed then shouldn’t he be allowed to do that?

But should Facebook have to pay the SMH when that article is shared?

Perhaps if Facebook did more to fight the spread of outrageous mis-information and conspiracy rubbish on their own platform as they seem to be putting into this fight – we’d all be able to sit back and consider what’s best.

Regardless – the internet as we know it is going to change. We wait with popcorn handy to see just how.