Facebook Ban on News Links in Australia

Could this be next for USA?

Photo+of+small+toy+people+set+in+front+of+a+backlit+%22facebook%22+captured+in+Paris+on+May+12%2C+2012.

Joel Saget- AFP/Getty Images

Photo of small toy people set in front of a backlit “facebook” captured in Paris on May 12, 2012.

Elizabeth Goetz, Editor/Feature Writer

After a long, exhaustive debate, Facebook announced on Wednesday, February 17, that they are banning links to news articles in Australia. 

 

While demand for current news has only increased since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, news companies are struggling to stay above water. In response, the Australian government proposed a new regulation to benefit these companies. Whether or not this regulation will be beneficial, however, is unknown. 

 

Many news companies are undergoing a crisis. It is essential to know how they profit from their online articles. There are two models of profit that most companies use. The first is through advertisements. This theory seems to make sense. The more traffic a site gets, the more a company will pay to put their advertisements on your articles, the more that the news company profits. However, since the initial coronavirus scare, advertisement purchases have plummeted dramatically. 

 

The second method of profit is through subscriptions. For readers to access news articles, they must buy a subscription to the newspaper. However, during the recent health scare, many news companies have opted to leave their coronavirus updates free of charge. Compounded with the fact that platforms such as Google and Facebook have “sucked up some 60% of the U.S. market for online advertising” (Oremus), it is easy to see how these companies could be struggling. 

 

In response to this, the Austrian government proposed their version of a solution. Platforms that share a news company’s articles must now pay the company for access. For example, if a Facebook user in Australia wanted to repost an article about a recent political update, Facebook would have to pay the company that wrote the reposted article. To avoid this compensation, Facebook has now banned linking news articles to posts in Australia. 

 

Why is this a cause for concern? First and foremost, it is likely that this new ruling will only increase the amount of misinformation spread throughout Facebook’s platform. Without having the ability to link additional information to a post, it will become increasingly difficult for people to determine the difference between real and false information. Secondly, rather than giving the news companies more compensation for their work, this law seems to be limiting how readers can view the stories. Because of a law similar to this one, Google News is no longer available in Spain. 

 

While there is a prominent issue at hand, Australia’s answer may not be the right one. Only time will tell, though, and we can only hope that the positives will outweigh the negatives.