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Facebook could ban you from sharing news stories on your newsfeed if it has to pay for content

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Facebook may ban Australian users sharing news content in response to the News Media Bargaining code which may result in Facebook and Google paying media organisations to use their content.

The social media giant may remove all news content for Facebook and Instagram users in Australia and also restrict anyone from sharing news stories to their timeline.

Facebook’s shocking response comes after the ACCC’s campaign to compensate Australian media companies for use of their content on the Facebook and Google platforms which between them have cornered around 70 per cent of the digital advertising market.

“Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” says Facebook’s Australia and New Zealand managing director Will Easton in a statement.

“This is not our first choice – it is our last.

“But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector.”

Facebook’s Easton says the ACCC’s new regulation “misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect”.

Easton says the ACCC also ignored important facts and misinterpreted the relationship between news media and social media and who benefits the most from the other.

Google also reacted strongly to the ACCC’s proposed regulation recently and published an open letter on its home page and on YouTube which said the free service would be under threat, search results would change and there was a worry about the security of user data.

The ACCC responded to the Google open letter point by point and described it as “misinformation”.

Facebook’s statement today says it shares the goal of supporting news organisations and engaged with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

But it says the ACCC’s proposed regulation is counterproductive and “seeks to regulate how tech companies do business with news publishers”.

“The ACCC presumes that Facebook benefits most in its relationship with publishers, when in fact the reverse is true,” the Facebook statement says.

“News represents a fraction of what people see in their News Feed and is not a significant source of revenue for us.

“Still, we recognize that news provides a vitally important role in society and democracy, which is why we offer free tools and training to help media companies reach an audience many times larger than they have previously.”

In the first five months of 2020, Facebook sent 2.3 billion clicks from Facebook’s newsfeed to Australian news websites for free. Facebook values this volume of clicks for Australian publishers at more than $200 million.

“We already invest millions of dollars in Australian news businesses and, during discussions over this legislation, we offered to invest millions more,” the statement continued.

“We had also hoped to bring Facebook News to Australia, a feature on our platform exclusively for news, where we pay publishers for their content.

“Since it launched last year in the US, publishers we partner with have seen the benefit of additional traffic and new audiences.

“But these proposals were overlooked. Instead, we are left with a choice of either removing news entirely or accepting a system that lets publishers charge us for as much content as they want at a price with no clear limits.

“Unfortunately, no business can operate that way.”

Public submissions for the ACCC’s News Media Bargaining code has ended. A decision could be made before the end of the year after the Government considers the feedback.