back to article Australian government fights Facebook news ban by threatening 0.01% of Zuck's ad revenue

Australia’s finance minister says it is his “expectation” that the nation “will pull back from advertising on Facebook” while The Social Network continues to prevent the sharing of links to news stories in the nation. Facebook banned the sharing of news links from Australian outlets, and all links to news articles for …

  1. deevee

    Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

    Do they really think we go to facebook to get our news?

    We are perfectly happy NOT to be getting spammed with click-bait sensationalist headlines by newspapers that do little more than promote government propaganda.

    1. Flat Phillip

      Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

      How are you going to read those 10 Articles You Won't Believe (#3 is a shocker) without Facebook News?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

      I don't like or use Facebook myself, but I'm with them on this one. Facebook is a private business, if they decide it's not worth them servicing NEWS in a particular market due to that markets regulation, that is their call. No one should complain about it, least of all the people calling for or enacting the legislation.

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

        They should complain when that organization has pursued an aggressive strategy of buying its competitors in order to become a monopoly and hoovered up nearly all the advertising funding that used to keep news sites alive. The risk to democracy, particularly where news is concerned, of a single unaccountable organization becoming the de-facto communication channel on the web, is serious. The fact that most posters here don't use Facebook and therefore think it's their business is irrelevant cos we're a long way from being normal web users. Do you really think it would be OK for Zuckerberg, and Zuckerberg alone, to decide which news people see every day? - cos if things don't change that's what will happen.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

          I started reading your post thinking you were describing newspaper owners in general and Murdoch in particular. Although in general I'm not a fan of Facebook or Zuckerberg I think the greater threat comes form monopoly control of newspapers. The more important aspect of this row, however, isn't about monopolies, it's about the attempt to undermine the principle on which the web works: it links material together so if you put something out there expect it to be linked to. If you don't want links to it don't put it there. It's as simple as that. If you don't want it indexed there's a mechanism to prevent that, robots.txt, If people are copying and pasting material that is a different matter but AIUI it's about links and, frankly, if you don't want to have stuff linked to, don't put it there in the first place.

          1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

            Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

            > If people are copying and pasting material that is a different matter but AIUI it's about links

            It's not really about the links, but about the rich snippet that gets displayed alongside it on FB/Google News.

            Which is a bit more nuanced topic.

            It's quite a nuanced debate really, and neither side is really in the right here.

            Australia's implementation is completely ham-fisted, but there is actually a valid point underneath - the way in which GN/FB have been displaying news has led to a loss of revenue for the papers, revenue which ultimately should fund research of future news stories (the fact it lines Murdochs pockets is a separate issue).

            Facebook, from what I can tell, have been deliberately difficult in implementation. It looks a lot like they've gone "we'll fucking show them" and interpreted the rules as broadly as possible, knowing the blocking would cause uproar, and assumed the politicians get the blame. But, instead, they've blown their own balls off.

            Ultimately though, the bread and butter of it is that FB are profiting (directly or otherwise) from displaying locally generated news content, at the cost of depriving the sources of that content of revenue.

            Going back to the monopoly thing, if there's any hope of some upstart news outfit breaking Murdoch's grip, it's almost certainly extinguished if you allow the market to hit conditions where it's just not commercially viable to operate. After all, Murdoch can afford to operate in that kind of environment (making his money back through other ventures that benefit from slanted news).

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

              "It's not really about the links, but about the rich snippet that gets displayed alongside it on FB/Google News."

              They have a trade-off. They can simply forbid indexing, then nothing gets seen. Obviously they reckon they have more to lose that way. Cake and eat it comes to mind.

              1. Falmari Silver badge

                Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

                @ Doctor Syntax “ They have a trade-off. They can simply forbid indexing, then nothing gets seen.”

                But it is not as simple as that if they forbid indexing it is for everyone not just Facebook (or Google). It is not possible to forbid indexing to Facebook without it being forbidden to others, that means every other search engine.

                As you said the charging for your links goes against the principle of how the internet works. But I would say charging to show others links also goes against that principle. To me that is exactly what Facebook are doing. It is indirect charging, but it is there in their Ads system. They curate those links and send only the links they think a user is interested in to keep them on Facebook.

                Yes it does stink to charge for links who ever is doing the charging.

                1. doublelayer Silver badge

                  Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

                  "But it is not as simple as that if they forbid indexing it is for everyone not just Facebook (or Google). It is not possible to forbid indexing to Facebook without it being forbidden to others, that means every other search engine."

                  Actually, that's not correct. Robots.txt supports requesting no indexing patterns affecting specific user agents and specific paths. It would be entirely possible to do this:

                  UserAgent: Googlebot

                  Disallow: /news

                  UserAgent: Facebookbot

                  Disallow: /news

                  UserAgent: Duckduckgobot

                  Allow: /

                  You'd have to do a bit of searching to find the relevant user agents, but if Google and Facebook respect robots.txt, you can set it up to ignore just them. If it's individual people choosing to post the links, you have a larger problem, but if you can get your outcome by blocking bots, then you can have finer control of it.

                  1. Falmari Silver badge

                    Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

                    @doublelayer Cheers for the info I did not know that.

                    BTW I can't see why someone would down vote you just for putting up info. So have an up vote. :)

                  2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

                    Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

                    > They have a trade-off. They can simply forbid indexing, then nothing gets seen.

                    That's a false dichotomoy, one introduced mainly by Google and Facebook.

                    This is not, and never was, just about links. Those two companies have tried to portray it as that because it serves their ends.

                    > You'd have to do a bit of searching to find the relevant user agents, but if Google and Facebook respect robots.txt, you can set it up to ignore just them

                    Things might have changed, but Facebook was previously known for not respecting robots.txt (justification: we're not a crawler, we scrape meta data when pages are shared).

                    Google does respect it

            2. genghis_uk Silver badge

              Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

              <quote>Ultimately though, the bread and butter of it is that FB are profiting (directly or otherwise) from displaying locally generated news content, at the cost of depriving the sources of that content of revenue.</quote>

              I am not sure this is 100% correct. Facebook may get some advertising revenue from pages where news has been linked (note: FB didn't link it, users did) but I have seen no real independent data to show that these links are depriving the sources of revenue. If anything, they may have increased traffic from Facebook links. Again, if the small snippet of news does not entice a person to read the article, it that the fault of Facebook or the author? It's not exactly a teaser if it does not tease is it?

            3. Stripes the Dalmatian

              Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

              "Ultimately though, the bread and butter of it is that FB are profiting (directly or otherwise) from displaying locally generated news content, at the cost of depriving the sources of that content of revenue."

              How does driving more traffic to newspaper sites (by giving them free advertising!) deprive them of revenue? Surely that increases the value of their own advertising?

              It's difficult to see why Facebook should pay a tax for effectively subsidising Australian companies.

              Also, there isn't much 'content' in a snippet, it mostly just disambiguates the headline which allows visitors to read stories they want to see rather than having their time wasted on ones they don't.

              1. Rockets

                Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

                The other thing seen how many news stories directly link to Facebook or Instgram posts now? Does this work the other way with the news orgs paying Facebook for linking to content on their platforms? Because the news orgs clearly generate revenue going the other direction.

              2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

                Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

                > How does driving more traffic to newspaper sites (by giving them free advertising!) deprive them of revenue? Surely that increases the value of their own advertising?

                But (according to the papers) it's not driving traffic, it's _reducing_ it.

                1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                  Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

                  Yes, they say a lot of things. Let's see some evidence.

            4. Persona Silver badge

              Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

              Ultimately though, the bread and butter of it is that FB are profiting (directly or otherwise) from displaying locally generated news content, at the cost of depriving the sources of that content of revenue

              The local news sources are profiting more as the links from Facebook are bringing customers who would otherwise not bother ever visiting their news site. If the customers valued the news site they would go there directly without Facebook giving them a helping hand. There is a case for Facebook to be charging the news site a referral fee .............

              1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

                Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

                That's only true if Facebook links result in more traffic. The News orgs say that that's not the case.

                Granted they're not the most trustworthy source, but on the other side you've got Facebook who've just been caught knowingly lying about the reach of their advertising in order to protect their bottom line.

                Neither side's a particularly reliable witness.

                But FB could just have easily

                - said "we just won't show rich snippets around links to those orgs" (or some other compromise) but instead decided to bring a nuke to a knife party.

                - not blocked things that clearly don't fall under the law

                - not blocked anything before the law has passed

                To me at least, that tilts the scales towards it being the news orgs who aren't telling quite so many porkies.

                1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                  Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

                  But FB could just have easily

                  - said "we just won't show rich snippets around links to those orgs" (or some other compromise)

                  The idiotic law doesn't allow this.

                2. Persona Silver badge

                  Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

                  we just won't show rich snippets around links to those orgs

                  Without the rich snippets the news sites are even more likely to resort to clickbait headlines. Perhaps that's it: a rich snippet is enough to stop the reader deciding not to bother following the bait so the new sites are not getting the click throughs they desire.

      2. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

        True. The way to combat it, if that's what people over there want, is to stop using Facebook and delete their accounts, fully, not just suspend but actually delete the accounts.

        1. Radio Wales
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

          Yes agreed.

          When Facebook declared British users to be Californians on the first day of Brexit, I decided to part ways, and being cautious suspended my account to think through the ramifications before deleting it altogether.

          Bad move. FB reactivated it every day - citing doing me a favour as a friendly act.

          Upshot? I had to delete it completely.

          Then I began getting messages inviting me to re-engage with no loss of data. Which I took to mean the account wasn't really deleted at all. Lesson? What lies in the cloud stays in the cloud FOREVER.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

        The problem with Facebook and others is not that they are a private company, it’s that they get certain legal considerations as a social platform, but they are behaving like a publisher - which should negate those considerations. So if they want to censor or promote, that should be their prerogative. However in doing so, they also need to be held accountable for their actions.

        I think they made a mistake by pulling speech they don’t agree with - I think seeing the sane and insane makes us better at debate, and on occasion opens closed minds. (Ok maybe a bit Pollyanna - ish of me...)

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

      "We" don't go to Facebook for our news, but most other people do unfortunately.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

        Whoever downvoted you must live in a tech-bubble... and even there, I know some who use FB as a news aggregator and don't seem to notice much of what didn't reach it

      2. hottuberrol

        Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

        Not only do most other people (and in the case of some Sth Pacific and African nations, FB *is* the internet".....but FB is deciding what goes on their feed, filtering their reality.... while pretending to be in favour of free speech. Check and balances? None - Zuck has a majority share and is unaccountable to Board and shareholders alike. Manifestly bad for society.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

        "most other people do"? Citation needed, I think.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Just goes to show how out of touch our politicians are

      post links to USENET and who's gonna stop you? Who's gonna TAX you?

      As expected, pretty much everyone will AVOID the tax, or ignore paying it even when required.

      wait until news links aren't posted any more. You could post something like this:

      A link to "The Register" online site for an article titled "whatever" - then a simple google search... no, wait. [could they tax Google as well???]

  2. P. Lee

    Australia: Stop people posting links on your platform for free!

    FB: ok

    Australia: Why can’t people post links on your platform?!

    1. Brad16800

      Funny all the Australian news sites saying how bad Facebook is for not sharing their cash when it looks like they're just doing what they were told. Guess they didn't want to pay for providing a free link to the news site.

      I do wonder what would stop news sites just posting links to their own site over and over as well, essentially generating their own income under this law. Madness it actually got to this point.

      Oh I don't use Facebook but seriously didn't think people used it for information (thought it was mainly for cat memes), guess that explains all the crazies.

      1. genghis_uk Silver badge

        <quote>I do wonder what would stop news sites just posting links to their own site over and over as well, essentially generating their own income under this law</quote>

        From what I understand, they did. The major news outlets had their own pages and posted links to their own material - now they want to be paid for the privilege too.

        The Aus government are now saying pay for the new s (that you don't want) or we will fine you or remove our advertising revenue... The politicians obviously do not understand how the internet works and have been embarrassed by Facebook's response so they are doubling down.

        Side note: People are complaining that too much of the article is shown so no-one clicks through but If the headline + tagline teaser is the whole substance of the article, it is probably not worthwhile journalism in the first place.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook is a pox on society

    Upfront it’s cat videos, recipes and fake memes.

    In reality it’s manipulation of elections, hate groups and conspiracy theories.

    They know where they can stick their thumb.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "pulling down sites"

    Whilst I detest Facebook, I don't agree that it is "pulling down sites"; the sites are still there, they just can't be seen in Facebook.

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    Can you imagine a world, where people have learned to live without Feacebook services and have perfectly normal functioning lives?

    Clearly Feacebook can't.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Apparently a lot of people can't.

  6. MJI Silver badge

    The problem is

    That there are people treating FB as the front screen of the internet, to them FB is the internet.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The problem is

      This could be a learning opportunity for them. Especially "them" in the Australian govt. and those who tell it what to do.

    2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: The problem is

      I'm not going to disagree with your post as I have no way of validating it either way, but some perspective is needed here as I'd also suggest that there are a vast number of people that don't use FB ,or use FB as their single source of news.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: The problem is

        there are a vast number of people that don't ... use FB as their single source of news.

        The role of single source of news is this site ;)

        1. FrogsAndChips

          Re: The problem is

          Never heard of it. Are they on Facebook?

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The problem is

        >This could be a learning opportunity for them. Especially "them" in the Australian govt.

        The same Australian govt that claims that its laws overrule the laws of maths ?

    3. Howard Sway

      Re: The problem is

      The problem is not that people are treating FB as the internet.

      The problem is that people are treating whatever FB feeds them as objective reality and truth.

      Strongly recommend reading the article linked to in the Bootnote below this story.

    4. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: The problem is

      Some of us remember users who thought the internet was a big blue 'e'. Things haven’t improved much...

  7. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

    Shill

    It has been suggested that PM Morrison is merely a shill of Rupert Murdouch and doing his bidding.

    Murdoch instructed bough PM to introduce extortionist legislation benefiting his News Corp.

  8. Wolfclaw

    AUS$7.9m and 14m users, now multiply that by a few more large or small countries, and FB has a problem and if it starts costing $$, maybe Zuckerberg will take notice and stop being an obnoxious twat !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Take notice? Maybe.

      Stop being an obnoxious twat? Never.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      AUS$7.9m and 14m users, now multiply that by a few more large or small countries, and FB has a problem and if it starts costing $$, maybe Zuckerberg will take notice

      The completely predictable result will be a banning of a complete country (or maybe more) from FB with just a single page telling the people FB stopped serving their country because of actions of their government. After a couple of incidents involving pitchforks and torches, resulting in a change of government, FB access will be restored.

  9. Aedile

    article error

    Facebook may be evil and may suck but saying they didn't give warning is false.

    They actually gave warning way back on Aug 31, 2020:

    https://about.fb.com/news/2020/08/changes-to-facebooks-services-in-australia/

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: article error

      That is fair warning and staying true to their word, the Australian government and news media only have themselves to blame, especially as those clicks just went up in smoke.

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