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What Facebook’s heavy-handed news ban means for Australia

Facebook logo Australian ban

As you may have heard, Facebook has gone and banned Australian news outlets from sharing content. But what does this mean for you? And Happy Mag?

As a reaction to Australia’s proposed Media Bargaining law, today Happy Mag woke up to find our Facebook page blocked to readers all over the world. It’s a position shared by the rest of our brothers and sisters in Australian media – from long-running news sources to satirical favourites in The Betoota Advocate or The Chaser, to essential sources of crisis information such as the Bureau of Meteorology or the ABC.

Hell, Facebook even managed to ban their own page in the cull. Oops.

Why has this happened?

The proposed Media Bargaining law in Australia would require tech giants such as Google and Facebook to pay for the content that appears on their networks. Understandably, Google and Facebook were a little miffed at the whole ordeal.

This morning, Facebook took their stance a step further by doing what they had previously threatened – censoring news from Australians at large. The effects of this move are far-reaching – not only will Australian news sources become unavailable and unsharable on Facebook, but international readers won’t be able to see Australian content either.

In a post outlining their decision, Facebook shared:

“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.”

What does this all mean?

Broadly speaking, Facebook is a serious source of traffic for almost everyone hit by this ban. The effect is heavy-handed and unanimous. You may laugh off the fact that your least favourite publisher will no longer be providing misinformation to its audience of spoon-fed conspiracy theorists, but the reality is that several critical sources of information have been hamstrung.

The Facebook pages of government-led health organisations such as NSW Health and SA Health have been blocked, both of which have spent the last 11 months providing essential updates on the COVID-19 pandemic. More localised pages for Australian hospitals have also been blocked. Given the recent Melbourne coronavirus spike and subsequent lockdown, you can understand how dangerous Facebook’s actions have the potential to be.

The Bureau of Meteorology, Australia’s leading source of severe weather warnings, has also been blocked. As have Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services, right in the middle of bushfire season.

On a broader cultural level, organisations such as Happy Mag and our contemporaries assist in telling the stories and providing a platform for millions of musicians, visual artists, independent creators, social commentators, and many more of Australia’s most important voices.

Facebook’s ban is quite obviously algorithmic, meaning that many organisations whose function is critical to our day-to-day lives, and the livelihoods of many Australians, have been affected deeply as collateral. It’s essential that as soon as possible, Facebook reconsiders the potential damage done by this move.

How can I stay up to date with Happy Mag?

Until this blows over, we’re sharing the many other ways you can stay up to date with Happy Mag. We’re by no means turning off the lights, and you can bet the content will keep rolling.

So just in case Facebook goes the way of the dodo in Australia, here’s where else to find us:

TWITTER INSTAGRAM YOUTUBE FLIPBOARD PINTEREST LINKEDIN

You can also continue to browse Happy’s website directly of course, but if you’d rather receive a curated list of our best content each day, subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.