Facebook’s News Blackout In Australia: Shot Itself In The Foot Or Have The Last Laugh?

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When Mark Zuckerberg and the team decided to blackout its news content in Australia, they had little idea of how the decision could turnout to be a nightmare for them to deal with.

On one hand, where Google conceded before the Australian Media Bargaining Code by striking a multi-year deal with the Murdoc-owned News Corp, Facebook decided to go otherwise. 

On Thursday, the social media giant blacked out all types of news content from its networking platform and also blocked the ability of Australian users to share news content on their feed.

Now, to this, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison showed no signs of weakness. Instead, he reiterated the country’s vow to go ahead with the legislation and force Facebook Inc to pay news outlet for content in a press meet held on Friday.

The move by Facebook, which also erased several accounts of state government, emergency departments and non-profit charity sites, attracted a massive and widespread outrage.

Morrison revealed to reporters in Sydney that the issue has seen a lot of support from leaders in Britain, France, Canada and India which makes it clear that there is a lot of world interest in what Australia is doing with its Media Bargaining Code.

Morrison further said: “That is why I invite … Facebook to constructively engage because they know that what Australia will do here is likely to be followed by many other Western jurisdictions.”

After Facebook announced their decision to pull out news from Australia, the Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, late on Thursday, mentioned even Canada would adopt the Australian approach to craft their own legislation in the upcoming months.

The much-talked Australian law which aims to force big tech platforms to pay Australian publishers has already been cleared by the country’s federal lower house and is now expected to be passed by the Senate within the next week itself.

Josh Frydenberg – the Australian Treasurer mentioned he had a conversation with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a second-time post the news blackout wherein they talked about the remaining issues and agreed their respective teams would work with each other immediately.

Facebook, in their statement announcing the move of blacking out news in Australia, said that the country’s legislation ‘misunderstood the platform’s value to publishers and thus they had to, unfortunately, go ahead with the decision that they undertook.

Impact Of Facebook News Blackout On Australia

According to Chartbeat, a New York-based analytics firm, Facebook’s move had an immediate impact on the traffic of Australian news sites.

After the ban, total traffic being received by Australian news sites from various platforms fell by 13% within the country and 30% outside the country when compared to the day before the ban.

Furthermore, traffic to Australian news sites from Facebook alone took a massive hit as data from Chartbeat reported it plummeting from around 21% to 2% within Australia and for outside the country – 30% to about 4%.

This goes to show what widespread damage can platform such as Google and Facebook can inflict on an entire country by simply deciding to flip off a switch.

Now, it remains to be seen if the fight that Australia has begun against big tech platforms is able to spread far beyond its borders to other countries as well. Will Facebook have to regret its decision or the Australian government bows down to Zuckerberg. It would be interesting to see who is going to have the last laugh!

We will keep you updated on all future developments. Until then, stay tuned.


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