Here's why Facebook is unlikely to change for users in the UK - in the wake of Australia's ban

What you need to know about the current situation with Facebook (Photo: Shutterstock)

Facebook users in the UK aren’t likely to be hit with a similar ban on viewing and sharing news content on the social media platform as has happened in Australia.

In Australia, the tech giant has pulled its news content from its site over a new law proposal that requires internet firms to pay news organisations.

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In the UK, Facebook does pay publishers for some articles thanks to the launch of Facebook News - an initiative where the company has paid the likes of Channel 4 News, Daily Mail Group, DC Thomson, Financial Times, and more, for content.

However, social media consultant Matt Navarr told the Press Association (PA) that such deals could deteriorate if one side feels that the scheme is no longer worthwhile - especially if other countries, like Australia, set an example.

Navarr said: “Feasibly, in the future, you could argue that these deals will fall apart, that one of the parties, whether its Facebook or published sites, if there’s an imbalance of value exchanged.

“One party [could] feel in terms of precedents set in other countries that the relationship needs to change or the deal needs to change, which could inevitably lead to similar kinds of bans by Facebook if it wanted to dig its heels in the UK - much like it’s shown it can and will be happy to do if similar rules are pushed against it.

“And likewise, publishers fight back in terms of how what they do using Facebook as a tool to distribute their content as well.”

However, Navarr states that there is “no immediate threat” of similar action being taken in the UK.

‘Staggeringly irresponsible’

Conservative MP Julian Knight, who chairs the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, told Radio 4’s PM programme that Facebook’s decision to block news content from its platform in Australia was a “crass move”.

He said: “I think it’s staggeringly irresponsible - at a time when we are facing a plethora of fake news and disinformation in relation to the Covid-19 vaccine.

“This is not just about Australia. This is Facebook putting a marker down, saying to the world that if you do wish to limit our powers… we can remove what is for many people a utility’.”

‘Facebook acting a bully’

Henry Faure Walker, chairman of the News Media Association, which represents UK media organisations, described the ban as “a classic example of a monopoly power being the school yard bully, trying to protect its dominant position with scant regard for the citizens it supposedly serves”.

Walker said: “Facebook’s actions in Australia demonstrate precisely why we need jurisdictions across the globe, including the UK, to coordinate to deliver robust regulation to create a truly level playing field between the tech giants and news publishers.”

What happened in Australia?

Facebook has blocked Australian users from being able to share or view news content on its site, sparking concern over public access to key information.

The move comes in response to a proposed law which would require tech giants, like Facebook, to pay for news content on its platforms.

On Thursday (18 Feb), Australians woke to find that the Facebook pages of all local and global news sites had become unavailable.

In the announcement issued by William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, it explains what the move means for the likes of publishers and Australian users.

For Australian publishers, it 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
  • Facebook will continue to provide access to all other standard Facebook services, including data tools and CrowdTangle

For international publishers, it means that they can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts cannot be viewed or shared by Australian audiences.

For the Australian Facebook community, it means that they cannot view or share Australian or international news content on Facebook or content from Australia and international news pages.

For the international Facebook community, it means that they cannot view or share Australian news on Facebook or content from Australian news pages.