Fair Dinkum

18 February 2021


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Facebook Drops News Posts in Australia

In a temper tantrum driven by greed and entitlement, Facebook as dropped all news postings in Australia. This is a response to proposed laws that would require the company to pay news organizations for the use of their content. Facebook has long maintained incorrectly that it is not a publisher but merely a platform through which users share content. The law would mean that Facebook can no longer profit from the work of others without paying for it.

The BBC reports, "Australian authorities had drawn up the laws to 'level the playing field' between the tech giants and struggling publishers over profits. Of every A$100 (£56; $77) spent on digital advertising in Australian media these days, A$81 goes to Google and Facebook.

"But Facebook said the law left it 'facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia.

"'With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter,'it said in a blog post."

The realities of the relationship are exactly what Facebook has been avoiding since it was founded. The company likes to say they are merely a platform for sharing content. This is simply untrue. Facebook allows people to take the content others have created and share it. In addition, Facebook sells ads that are related to the content utilizing its algorithms to target audiences. This makes Facebook a publisher by any reasonable definition of the term. The issue is that Facebook does not compensate copyright holders.

It is important to remember that the person who creates content (words, photos, videos) owns it. If one posts a sentence on Facebook, that sentence is intellectual property belonging to the person posting it. Many of the posts would not generate a penny in royalties if there were a charge to read or watch them. At the same time, there are loads of posts that elsewhere cost money to view. Producers of this content receive no compensation despite the fact that that content pulls in eyeballs to look at Facebook's ads.

Australia has decided that news organizations deserve to be paid for their content, which should not be a revolutionary idea. Lloyd's List newspaper is 330 or so years old and has sold adds literally for centuries.

The worry is that, absent legitimate news media content, Facebook will wind up spreading more and more disinformation and untruths. That is a concern, but Facebook should spend the money it is saving by not paying copyright holders on dealing with this.

This journal, which is extremely careful about staying within fair-use exceptions to copyright (short quotations are always cited), takes the view that readers will have to get their news from someplace other than Facebook. That is inherently good. Reading news services like Reuters or newspapers like The Guardian, Washington Post or The Age, will result in a better informed reader than seeing something on Facebook. The former have standards. The latter only pretends to have them.

Facebook is a useful tool for communication. Keeping up with far-off friends, sharing family photos, even apprising customers of what a company is doing are all legitimate uses of Facebook. Having it provide news that other companies have paid to create is only proper if Mr. Zuckerberg and Co. pay for it. It is short-sighted on him not to do so; he could have more content and much more varied content Facebook paid the marginal media companies what they deserve.

Until then, Australians will have to get their news from actual news operations, which is fair dinkum.

© Copyright 2021 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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