Facebook Bans News in Australia to Avoid Paying Charges

Yves here. Facebook has decided to go nuclear in its dispute with the Australian government over a plan to require the media giant to share revenues with content providers and has barred all news content. And yes, this is a big deal:

More detail starting with Reuters:

Australians woke to empty Facebook news feeds on Thursday, after the social media giant blocked all media content in a surprise escalation of a dispute with the government, which could be a test for the future of online publishing worldwide.

The move was swiftly criticised by news producers, politicians and human rights advocates, particularly as it became clear that official health pages, emergency safety warnings and welfare networks had all been scrubbed from the site along with news.

“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote on his own Facebook page, using the vernacular for cutting ties with another person on the site.

“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”

A planned Australian law would require Facebook and Google to reach commercial deals with news outlets whose links drive traffic to their platforms, or be subjected to forced arbitration to agree a price.

The Guardian stresses that Facebook’s ban was a big cock-up:

The Bureau of Meteorology, state health departments, the Western Australian opposition leader, charities and Facebook itself are among those to have been hit by Facebook’s ban on news in Australia.

On Thursday morning Facebook began preventing Australian news sites from posting, while also stopping Australian users from sharing or viewing content from any news outlets, both Australian and international.

The social media giant said it made the decision in response to the news media bargaining code currently before the Senate, which would force Facebook and Google to negotiate with news companies for payment for content.

While the ban was only meant to target Australian news publishers, dozens of pages run by key government agencies, community pages, union pages, charity organisations and politicians were also blocked for several hours.

Australia’s main source of weather information, the Bureau of Meteorology, said on Thursday morning that it had been blocked, and was advising users to go to its direct website, app or Twitter page.

Needless to say, this is not winning friends among the locals. From BBC: “Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan accused the company of “‘behaving like a North Korean dictator’.” And by contrast, Google was working on getting deals done.

This development was so significant that The Conversation sent out a special newsletter to Australian readers, with links to additional posts. We’re including on the main piece but encourage you to click through to the detailed accounts.

And consistent with our “If your business depends on a platform, you don’t have a business” stance, less than 1% of our traffic comes from Facebook.

A special alert from The Conversation

So Facebook has followed through on its threat to ban news on its Australian platform. It’s an aggressive move, a muscle-flex clearly designed to say “we don’t need journalism, journalism needs us”. The larger aim is to scare the Australian Government into a retreat on its proposed media bargaining laws that would see Facebook and Google pay for journalism.

Of course it’s not going to work. In the short run Facebook’s move will have serious consequences, especially on the eve of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. The appalling decision to take down government health information sites demonstrates how callously indifferent this American corporation can be to the well-being of its audiences.

In the longer term it is worth remembering we got along pretty well before Facebook arrived on our shores, with their steady stream of conspiracy theories and QAnon. Should this rupture prove irreparable we will be able to do so again.

But it shouldn’t come to that. To use The Conversation as an example, we get about 7% of our readers from Facebook and we currently provide all our work to Facebook for free. We do it because we believe facts matter, and the large audience that gets all its news from Facebook needs access to the sort of reliable information from experts that we provide.

The government’s proposed media bargaining code provides a negotiation mechanism for Facebook to pay a fee to support some of that work. It is complex and arguably flawed, but it should not be impossible to fix. Perhaps ironically, behind the scenes Facebook is much more reasonable than its actions suggest. Their spokespeople say they do value journalism and are willing to pay to support it, and they have done so in the past. The only sticking points are how they pay, and how much.

Two things need to happen now. Cooler heads must prevail and we must not buckle to Facebook’s reckless attempt to throw its weight around. It’s a tough situation for the Morrison government, which deserves credit for taking on this fight. Now it must see it through.

This special newsletter contains analysis and commentary on Facebook’s move from Diana Bossio and Lisa Given from Swinburne, James Meese from RMIT, Maryke Steffens from Macquarie University and University of Sydney, David Tuffleyfrom Griffith and Caroline Fisher, Kerry McCallum, Kieran McGuinness and Sora Park from the University of Canberra.

Misha Ketchell

Editor & Executive Director

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  1. DanP66

    Maybe people will wake up and realize that they have become entirely TOO dependent on these platforms.

    MAYBE governments and people will smarten up and realize that these things need to be regulated at the national level as though they are utilities.

    Think about the RAW power play FB just made. Its totally in your face. Nothing subtle here. That is humiliating to the politicians and a clear threat to their power.

    In a way…this could severely backfire on FB and Google as well. It just might wake up enough politicians in Australia and the EU (no hope in the US) and force some painful changes on these companies. Ultimately, if the rest of the world cracks the whip and starts reining these firms in, Canada and the US will eventually follow.

    1. vlade

      I think this is why Google did a deal – if it did FB, people would find DuckDuckGo and similar instead..

      FB relies on the fact that people won’t jump the ship overnight, and that may extend the pressure on pols.

      If I was an Aussie politician, I’d say ok, you don’t want a deal, here’s a (high) revenue tax which will be the cost of the deal. And, BTW, as long as you don’t do a deal, the tax will be reviewed every year…

      1. flora

        Wasn’t there a post yesterday about a Global Cap coup d’état ? FB acting like a sovereign nation dictating terms to the Australian govt seems like an attempt at that sort of thing.

      2. ChrisPacific

        The fact is that Facebook is a horrible news platform, as they have just admitted outright by confirming that they’d rather give up accurate and reputable news sourcing than take even a small hit to profit. They are in the business of serving up content that generates clicks, and they have somehow convinced a significant percentage of the world’s population that this amounts to a news feed. In reality news ranks well down the list for click generation, which is why they don’t value it.

        I think the risk for Facebook in all this is that Australians who currently get news from Facebook look elsewhere for it and realize what a corrupted product they’ve been consuming all this time. I am hopeful that Australians will eventually find their lives improved as a result.

        1. Cap'n Mainwaring

          Let’s not get carried away with the idea that News Corp provides ‘accurate and reputable news sourcing’; in Australia, at least, News Corp operates as an arm of the Liberal Party, churning out tons of anti-Labor stuff, climate change denialism, coronavirus pandemic denialism, anti-taxation for the well-off etc etc. News that goes against its agenda is simply bypassed. Most of its regular columnists are wingnut polemicists who sometimes appear on the loony fringe Sky TV, or even present its programs. The distinction being drawn between ‘fake news’ and ‘trustworthy news’ is fake in itself when talking about the corrosive rubbish published by News Corp and the Nine network (now also a barely disguised wing of the Liberal Party).

  2. Alain

    I think it would be really great news if the Australian government retaliates by blocking all Facebook properties.

    I think what would happen is some kicking, screaming and yelling by the general populace for a couple of weeks, which would eventually die down to then let people realize how little they really need this dreck and how much the quality of their lives actually increases massively.

    Sure, there may be a few “influencers” being robbed of their income, which maybe would prod them to actually look for a real job.

    I’m really not joking here. But let me add the disclaimer that I “deleted” my Facebook account in 2012 and wouldn’t touch any of their properties with a 50 foot pole, while donning a hazmat suit.

    1. James Simpson

      This Brit has never used FB. What’s all this fuss about? Either take social media into public ownership in every nation to run it for the public good and not for profit, or ignore it.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Facebook dopamine addicts are addicted. They can’t ignore it anymore. They are addicted.

  3. Valerie Long Tweedie

    I think this should be a wake up call for all of us. The big tech companies are far too powerful and are throwing their weight around. Facebook is getting terrible press in Australia and definitely looks like the bully in the playground.

  4. The Rev Kev

    Newsflash – Facebook bans all news going through their newsfeed to Australia
    Follow-up story: Australians projected to increase their IQ at least five percent during the coming weeks.

    I think that Zuck has been hanging around way too many security and establishment figures lately and has absorbed their ways of thinking. This story for example. I would rephrase it to say that Facebook is ‘sanctioning’ Australia just like a country would. That’s right. Facebook is sanctioning Australia of information. And all those other pages like the Bureau of Meteorology, state health departments, the Western Australian opposition leader, vaccine dispersal, charities, etc. that also disappeared? That was ‘collateral damage.’ But intentional ‘unintentional’ collateral damage if you know what I mean. Like when the west sanctions Iran and it is discovered that it is now almost impossible for Iran to import life-saving medicines as an ‘unintended’ consequence.

    If Zuck thinks that Aussies will demand of their politicians that they give in to Facebook, it’s not gunna happen. From what I have been reading, the attitude appears to be the sentiment to have the government tell Facebook to “Zuck off!” They are not that important but Facebook may have screwed up here by doing this. Other countries are now taking notice of Facebook’s tactics and are probably considering changes to laws & regulations and maybe starting to draw up their own plans in case this happens to them. What is worse for Facebook is that they used a nuclear option. If it does not work, what will they have left to do? Cut off all Facebook accounts in Australia? They have little leeway left to themselves and can only back down. And frankly if Facebook disappeared, would civilization collapse? Their whole model is to spy on their users and to sell them out at each and every opportunity. Who knows. Maybe somebody can buy back the MySpace domain.

    1. tegnost

      I think that Zuck has been hanging around way too many security and establishment figures lately

      They beat trump and now biden is in office they see a clear path to ruling the world. Bezos to the pentagon, musk in space, zuck for propaganda, google for all three. Note also the “stimulus”is a dead letter. You want money? Go get a job. Republicans all of them, and not very bright to boot…

    2. polecat


      No. He’s been in the deepstate moshpit from Day One! Same for @jack Rasputin! … most certainly for Sergey, Larry, and Eric!!
      They are ALL, to a one, a Ginormous, Virtuperative, Pustulous POX on society!

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Did they really disappear? Or did they just disappear from off of Facebook? Do the URLs still work? Do the names of these places still show up with clickable links on Google or DuckDuckGo or etc.?

      This would be a fine time for Google or whomever to create a page or something called Find It Australia which would have easy-to-see names and links for all these crucial places that Facebook has erased from its own page.

    4. Cap'n Mainwaring

      Kev, you speak as if the Morrison government were on some brave crusade, with right on their side, against the might of the digital giants. While I’d love to see the demise of FB, I’d even more like to see Murdoch’s banishment; this whole thing is being driven by him, not the government.

  5. Tom Stone

    I applaud this move by Mark the Magnificent, Facebook IS bigger than many national Governments and has not followed the rules for its entire existence.
    The timing is good, too.
    Can you think of a better time to give the populace the finger before mooning them?

    What a god send for Scotty from Marketing and other politicians, there’s no better way to unite a populace than “justifiable” anger…
    Especially when people are on edge.
    It’s gonna be fun!

  6. Robin J. Cartwright

    Facebook is clearly a menace, but that law is also badly designed. What they should do is tax Facebook & use the funds to subsidize journalism. Stop trying to disguise the law as a market.

      1. Basil Pesto

        probably journalists at the state broadcaster, the ABC. Robin is wrong, however, insofar as federal taxes don’t subsidise anything here, as in the US.

    1. Cap'n Mainwaring

      I agree, but I don’t think the government should subsidise News Corp ‘journalism’, which is being used as propaganda on behalf of the Liberal party government. Murdoch is subsidised far more than enough, and in the most opaque fashion, in return for the continued promotion of the Liberal party and the outright demonisation of the Labor party in the pages of its rags and programs on Sky TV. The new ‘bargaining code’ is just a sop to Murdoch, who can’t stop gouging from those who can’t stop him.

    1. Ezra

      Right! This seems like a great opportunity for Aussies to demonstate that using FB to get the news is not necessary to internet life. And once it’s proven in Australia, why not the rest of the world?

  7. Carolinian

    No offense to Australian friends but that which is a big deal to them may not be a big deal to Facebook. With a 20 something million population (roughly the same as Texas) they are asking for a change of business model from a corporation that services almost 8 billion people. Add that, theoretically, Facebook isn’t even in the news business at all and their response is hardly shocking.

    Having never used Facebook or shown much interest in it I would be unmoved should South Carolina’s struggling news sheets be cut off from Facebook. Maybe everyone should feel that way. After all if I want to check the local paper they do have a website.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      That’s exactly what terrifies and enhatredizes Facebook so much. If Australia is able to make Facebook do this, so will others. So Facebook hates Australia for this in the same way that America hates Cuba for going Communist and making it stick.

      Australia is to Facebook as Cuba is to America.

      That is why ZuckerFace is so enraged.

      Facebook delenda est.

    2. The Rev Kev

      February 18, 2021 at 9:25 am’

      Actually the population of Oz is over 25 million at the moment. And the number of Facebook monthly users is reckoned to be 2.7 billion but as Facebook has been found guilty of inflating numbers in order to charge advertisers more, it would probably be a fair bit less-


      At this point in time, Facebook is indistinguishable from spyware.

  8. simjam

    No, “news” organizations should not receive a handout. If they disseminate something of value people will pay for it. Have the government control Big Tech? Competent government disappeared under Ronald Reagan and has only gotten worse since. Look at the vaccine distribution mess, endless wars, and a wacko tax system built for the rich. Compared to what passes for government in this country these days Big Tech is a shining beacon on a hill.

    1. bob

      Amazon is working on the vaccine distribution, therefore it is doing a good job. So much so that every government, federal to local, gives Amazon giant handouts.

      Government is exactly the way Amazon, Google and Facebook want it. Has that ever occurred to you?

    2. James Simpson

      If they disseminate something of value people will pay for it.

      Unless that person owns a social media corporation.

    3. lordkoos

      I wonder what percentage of internet users are actually paying for online news subscriptions? Just a hunch, but I bet that most people don’t pay anything since so much is free on youtube. I certainly don’t pay anything outside of donations to this website and a couple of others. I prefer not to pay to be propagandized from the likes of the NY Times et al.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      You have the ” who-whom” reversed here. It is Facebook which is stealing free handouts from its targeted news content producers.

      They deserve to be paid. And Facebook deserves to be exterminated.

      Facebook delenda est.

    5. Yves Smith Post author

      You are seriously defending tech when the Internet is full of jokes as to how unacceptable a car would be if it performed like software? When Google has become totally useless for doing anything other than shopping? When Amazon is full of fake reviews and steals many of its third party vendors’ products, as in knocks them off? When Facebook’s business model is based on fraud, as in greatly inflated user numbers? When Google’s control of all sides of its ad platform allows it to engage in gross market abuses?

      Oh, sure, there successful. Like the mob.

      1. Med

        The world is changing before your eyes yet you don’t see. I do respect you and its members knowledge and leadership. A major turn is in the works just a matter of time.

  9. ddt

    If you can’t find news on FB, can’t you just click on your fave news site and read it there? Also there are other ways for the entities blocked to get content out.

    Never had FB and survived. It really is a cock up when you make Scotty from marketing look good.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      It’s the same as the mid 90s when a lot of people mistook being on AOL as being on the internet.

      Never used any social media myself, and we be quite happy if FB disappeared altogether. Here’s hoping their recalcitrance in OZ will be a nail in their coffin.

  10. Robert

    Nowhere are some of the more complex parts of this issue mentioned. Part of the proposed Australian News Media Bargaining Code stipulates that news media organisations must be given advance notice of changes to algorithms that affect their ranking in Google or their reach in Facebook. This has been raised repeatedly Facebook and Google as a major concern of theirs with the code, and would significantly advantage properties of media parties privy to the deal.

    This would have flow on effects where major publishers, as only publishers with incomes over a high enough threshold to exclude independent media publications, are able to cement their dominance in Australian feeds and searches, despite their content being potentially less relevant than that of already struggling independent media publications. Further, as Murdoch is a driving force behind the deal, this would allow him access to informational on how to gain algorithmic advantages worldwide for his media companies like Fox and Sky, or any of his newspapers.

    That brings us to the politics behind the deal. This deal is largely being driven by Murdoch, and was likely a horse traded for his support of the Liberal party in the last election. Murdoch owns more than 70% of all newspapers in Australia, and has in the past thrown this weight around in order to extract concessions from governments such as the destruction of a national fibre to the home network that was under construction by a labour government, threatening Murdoch’s Foxtel network, which at the time and still had a near-monopoly on the fibre to the premises market. Despite the rationalisation that this deal is intended to support ‘quality journalism’, which does not exist in any Murdoch rag and is all but dead in other mainstream publications, this deal originally excluded the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Service, gov owned TV channel), despite them being by a huge distance the primary news source across TV and digital (it was only after significant lobbying and public outcry that they were included). It also has an unnecessarily high minimum revenue for news services in order to exclude minor, though important, independent investigative players like Michael West News (michaelwest.com.au) who frequently break scandals and corruption that is then picked up by the majors.

    All of this sounds like I am sided with Facebook and Google, however, I’m not. I believe that both should be taken public / open source and their businesses dismantled. This approach, however, is only going to reinforce the marker position of corrupt major players, largely owned by the most destructive media force in the world, Rupert Murdoch. It is unfortunate that even normally accurate think-tanks like The Australia Institute are portraying this as a simple win against disinformation, supporting quality journalism, and hitting back against international bullies, instead of something closer to the truth where large media, mostly Murdoch, is using the Australian Government like a puppet to prop up their failing and shitty businesses.

    The one potential silver lining is that the ABC has been facing continuing budget cuts for the last decade or more under the Liberal government here, who if they could would privatise the network in an effort to neutralise it. The biggest financial winner from this deal should be the ABC, though I am unsure if the legislation would price their content fairly compared to that of news.com.au (Murdoch again).

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      In this case, Australia allying with Murdoch to fight Facebook is like America and Britain allying with Stalin to fight Hitler. Sometimes it just has to be done.

      1. Kfish

        Australian governments have never needed an excuse to side with Murdoch. It’s a decades-long habit. At least this time it’s useful to stick it to Faceborg.

        1. The Rev Kev

          And also to get attention away from that staffer that said she was raped by a Liberal party colleague two years ago and that it was all covered up, including by the PM. When it came out that the Parliamentary office that the rape occurred in was steamed cleaned just after, that removed all doubt what actually happened.

    2. Cap'n Mainwaring

      Thanks Robert; you’ve managed to reveal the (political) truth here. It’s hard to find the facts about the Australian government’s rotten dealing with Murdoch in any mainstream news source, since the biggest players – not only Murdoch but the Liberal government-aligned Nine media, the ABC and even the Guardian – are vested-interest cheer-leaders for the government on this issue as well as its arm-twisters, and publish nothing even slightly analytical, let alone critical, of the new code; it’s just too easy to demonise FB because of the tidal wave of ‘fake news’. Actually, arm-twister is not really the most apt term; the present government is totally committed to giving the Murdoch media in Australia whatever they want, any time. It’s more like willing pants-dropping than arm-twisting, what’s going on here. In the last few years, for example, there have been opaque, inexplicable and utterly unnecessary gifts to News Corp supposedly for the furtherance of sport broadcasting. The first gift was $30m, no questions asked, and the second $40m for broadcasting women’s sport, the result of which will almost certainly mean followers paying or paying more to view. News Corp actually gets paid to become more monopolistic. Essentially, this whole shemozzle with FB and Google is down to Murdoch’s (with the hangers-on like Nine) gouging more money at the same time as keeping the digital media at bay. As you point out, Robert, the zenith of this fight was the Liberal government’s deliberate hobbling of the all-fibre National Broadband Network, which threatened to cut deeply into Murdoch’s ailing, over-priced and generally awful Foxtel pay-TV service.

      I don’t care a hoot about FB or Google; being critics of those giants doesn’t mean supporting the government’s devious and supine actions. This deal with Murdoch is not going to bring any qualitative improvement to news publication or broadcasting in Australia; it’s likely to become even more partisan, more concentrated, more ‘fake’ if you will. Instead of fashioning deals favourable to Murdoch at the drop of a hat, or a favour called in, the government should be properly taxing the digital giants – and ironically News Corp itself, by the way, which also pays no tax – like it does ordinary working people so that the revenue can be used for the betterment of society rather than a huge media monopoly. Sadly, the present government cares little about ordinary citizens and governs only for its corporate ‘mates’.

      1. Basil Pesto

        The Federal Gov’t does not need to raise tax revenue from either News Corp or working people to fund anything, including programmes for the betterment of society. It’s important to understand and, once understood, disseminate this information. See the work of Warren Mosler, Stephanie Kelton, and, for an Australian perspective, Bill Mitchell, inter alia. Mitchell’s blog link is in the NC blog roll on the right. Cheers.

        1. Cap'n Mainwaring

          Basil, thank you, but I know all about MMT, and read Bill Mitchell’s Billy Blog regularly; you don’t need to convert me. I don’t think Bill advocates abolition of all taxation, as taxation has its purposes in MMT. But Facebook, Google and News Corp should be taxed, no? And tax collected can be spent, no? Getting a ‘fair share’ out of these greedy goliaths is obviously in the ‘too hard basket’ or, most likely, just ideological anathema.

      2. Robert

        Thanks for your considered response Mainwashing, you are right on all accounts.

        Basil Pesto, despite our shared agreement in MMT, all of these companies need to be taxed properly and fairly, which currently they are not. Smaller media players and tech startups do not have the capacity to letterbox profits overseas through shady tax havens and ridiculous IP deals that see all of their profits booked in the lowest tax jurisdiction internationally. This distorts fair competition and entrenches their monopoly power, instead of a fairly applied taxation rate which would encourage new players to enter the market and compete with them. There are other motivations to apply tax other than revenue!

  11. Matthew G. Saroff

    As an aside, in addition to folks like government health agencies, Facebook took down their own Facebook page too.

    I believe that the Aussies call that an “Own Goal”.

  12. ben lebsanft

    The realities of the dispute lay in the facts [and a article here a little while ago]that if you don’t own the platform you don’t have a business.

    Too many people just use it for easy distribution of thoughts/articles etc and haven’t read the fine print.
    governments as usual are so far behind and call most stuff way too late.

    Newscorp ,which is a content provider, doesn’t have to use Facebook to spread its content, it just forgot, it may have content, but no platform.

    it will be interesting to see if governments everywhere and business can actually stand back and be pragmatic.
    [good things may come out of this by the way]
    i do believe google has competition and was in a position and knew it is really a very large utility.
    Facebook is and entirely different kettle of fish.

    1. Cap'n Mainwaring

      Ironically, News Corp bought Myspace – a ‘platform’ – in 2005 for $580m, but sold it for $35m five years later. Murdoch subsequently described the purchase as a huge mistake.

  13. drumlin woodchuckles

    People in Australia can get links to more news than they can use from all the various links findable at The Drudge Report. People can get more news than they can even handle. The links include all sorts of domestic and foreign outlets . . . . right wing, left wing, center wing, establishment… I don’t know if counter-establishment outlets are linked to . . .

    But here is the link to this whole huge site of links. Just scroll down from Mr. Drudge himself screaming.

  14. drumlin woodchuckles

    Australia is the leader in this self-defense action against Facebook. But I have read in social science theory that the “leader” is nothing without the “first follower”. If a “first follower” joins the leader in whatever the leader has done, a “second follower” will likely emerge. If that happens, then more followers join in a followship cascade.

    So what government will be “first follower” to ” Australia the leader”? New Zealand? Hungary? Some other brave little country? Perhaps a Baltic State? There has to be a “first follower” or “the leader’s leadership” fizzles out and goes nowhere.

    Does Narendra Modi hate Facebook enough to make India the First Follower?

    Imagine if 40 or more countries all adopt the Australia Plan to charge Facebook for its freeloading on their news production. Can you imagine Facebook banning 40 or more countries in response? That would clarify the issue. That might even inspire enough fear and hatred against Facebook that all the citizens of those 40 or more countries decide to go beYOND their governments and adopt the REAL goal of exterminating Facebook from existence and wiping Facebook from off the face of the earth.

    ” Regulating” Facebook is like “regulating” cancer or “regulating” vampire bats. Think it can be done?
    Give it a try. I wish you luck.

    1. Foy

      Talking about first followers, here’s my all time favourite example of first follower ever. Nothing ever happens without the first follower. The whole 3 minutes is a fascinating look at group psychology. I wont say anymore other than towards the end it reminds of every mania that ever happened.


    1. RMO

      I’m eager to see how this turns out. There’s a god chance that now that Facebook has pulled it’s “We’re going to Galt’s Gulch – let’s see how you losers will get along without us” Australia’s citizens will realize they don’t really miss Facebook news after all.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        It could be the subject of a Western Movie.

        Ambush at Galt’s Gulch.

        Shootout at the Galt’s Gulch Corral.

  15. Ian

    Serves its Australian users right for using and supporting a tech business that’s bringing feudalism back. It’s high time people started taking responsibility for their decisions

  16. HotFlash

    So it’s Rupert vs Zuck? Both of them are slime IMO, but I’ll put my Au$$ on Rupert who is on his home ice. I do believe that Facebook has just made itself irrelevant in Oz, and I fervently hope, shown the rest of the world. Hilarity to ensue. How can I help?

    1. Basil Pesto

      I do believe that Facebook has just made itself irrelevant in Oz

      No, I can assure you it hasn’t.

      And I have to say, I don’t care for facebook, but comments in the vein of “End Social Media”, “The World Spun On Its Axis Before Social Media And Will Continue To Do So If It Goes”, “I had FB for a day/month/year and didn’t want to keep using it so therefore no one else should either” etc are tone deaf and delusional in a way that is supremely frustrating. A Social Media component of the internet can and does perform useful functions for populations, including but not limited to: socialising (group chats with my friends have been a source of succour in the last year in particular. Facebook’s Messenger service facilitates these well), business directories (I often refer to fb for information on local businesses, as they tend to have more up-to-the-minute info than their own websites, and are often easy and more convenient to contact through fb), a quasi-phonebook for individuals (easy to look up lost connections, make new ones, etc.), a way to conveniently share information and ideas with friends, community organising, community formation, and others (people use fb in innumerable different ways, with vastly different levels of engagement). I do recognise that some of these functions can have negative consequences as well.

      As an aside, these are all more or less functions, incidentally, of the pre-social media internet, but relatively de-anonymised and collated all in one place. It basically is the internet, but with unscrupulous selling of user data. It almost seems like more an alternative to the notion of the www platform than an especially unique phenomenon in and of itself.

      There is no putting this toothpaste back in the tube. People use it, and they use it for a reason. It is precisely its manifold usefulness that allows facebook to attract and keep users and then leverage its market power, with advertisers and other stakeholders.

      To the greatest extent possible, we should strive for social media alternatives that keep the useful aspects of facebook, and shed the malign ones. I have suggested elsewhere a state-developed social media platform, with privacy controls overseen by an independent ombudsman. That’s back of a napkin stuff, but it immediately appeals to me more than what fb is today. To reiterate, there is no putting the toothpaste of social media in general back in the tube.

      There’s more to facebook as a user experience than dopamine loops, and that has always been the case. Failure to understand this and falling back on back-in-my-dayism by effectively telling people that we should just get rid of it all and go back to the way things were, rather than consider serious alternatives, will not only never happen, but will lead to a wider failure to adequately reckon with the seriously problematic nature of facebook as an enterprise.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If someone tried to create and launch a Shinola Search and Social, would enough people subscribe to it to keep it alive?

  17. John

    The world lived without Facebook much longer than it has lived with it. I once opened an account on Facebook and closed it 24 hours later and have been glad I did. Social media in general is a bane.

  18. drumlin woodchuckles

    If less than 1% of this site’s traffic comes from Facebook to begin with, is it worth thinking of a way to exclude that final 1% as a way of overtly demonstrating a desire to “cancel Facebook”? A way to create a program or something that detects Facebook cooties on any incoming visitor from Facebook and prevents that visitor from getting through?

  19. skippy

    It seems FB’s model is not unlike money as information and the VoM [Velocity of Money] of it and how that translates to earnings for FB, hence why they are manic about anything that limits that velocity regardless of its quality E.g. all that matters is quantity and its speed constantly growing.

    I think this applies to the whole FANG gang regardless of the loose connection with any physical aspects associated currently with it. I would liken it to the Orange County RE model that swept across the U.S. and then was exported international and the ramifications of it.

    Being in Australia since the mid 90’s and have some reasonable notion of it, since then, I hear and somewhat agree with the perspective that this is ultimately a battle between Murdock and FB, cutting its grass, let alone take market share away. Hence its a bit of a conundrum of which force one may support because at the end of the day its just a choice of which one you want to have your reality delivered[tm] too you by – the powerless lose either way E.g old print media oligarchs vs. the new IT oligarchs and what ever delineation in shaping reality exists between the two – too the unwashed … sigh …

  20. skippy

    To flesh it out from the Oz angle …

    “The problem that we’ve seen within Facebook’s actions in the last 24 hours is that they give us a graphic example of what a very large new media monopoly can do to abuse its power,” Mr Rudd told the inquiry.

    “The problem with the government’s current response to the challenges of the digital media marketing code is that it seeks to solve one problem … by enhancing the power of the existing monopoly – that’s Murdoch.”


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