While Google has done deals with several media outlets to “pay for news” as the Government’s ACCC designed media code approaches legislative approval, Facebook has today announced they are restricting publishers and people in Australia from Sharing or Viewing Australian and international news content.

Facebook Australia’s Managing Director William Easton announced the news this morning, stating that “The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.

Facebook sees a clear differential between themselves and Google, saying “Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content. On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue.

This move is a radical step away from media companies in Australia, and  puts the Facebook “news feed” focus back on content generated by its users for each other, away from externally created content.

Facebook believe News makes up less than 4% of the content people see in their news feed, and while they say “Journalism is important to a democratic society, which is why we build dedicated, free tools to support news organisations around the world in innovating their content for online audiences.” the removal will have a vast impact on the access to information for Australians.

The announcement suggests the changes are effective immediately, though EFTM has tested some sharing this morning of major news content and it has worked, like many changes on such a large scale, this may take some time to trickle down to all users.

In it’s statement, Facebook says “Unfortunately, this means people and news organisations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on Facebook. Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted. To do this, we are using a combination of technologies to restrict news content and we will have processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed.

There is no clear details yet on what is defined as “news” content, and that will be an important discussion going forward if this change stays in place for the long term.

Facebook explains the changes for users and publishers with the following details:

For Australian publishers this means:

  • They are restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages
  • Admins will still be able to access other features from their Facebook Page, including Page insights and Creator Studio   
  • We will continue to provide access to all other standard Facebook services, including data tools and CrowdTangle

For international publishers this means:

  • They can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts can’t be viewed or shared by Australian audiences

For our Australian community this means: 

  • They cannot view or share Australian or international news content on Facebook or content from Australian and international news Pages 

For our international community this means:

  • They cannot view or share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news Pages 

So while for Google the fight is over and they are doing deals, Facebook has taken the opposite approach, and followed through with their threat.

The risk for media companies is that the impact on Facebook is in fact minimal, but the impact on traffic to media websites is affected – one assumes that’s what Facebook hopes will happen.