Facebook news ban: independent media hardest hit

 

I woke last Thursday to learn that Facebook had blocked news content in Australia. That this was imminent was no surprise. Many of us had been expecting this in response to the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. But the breadth and severity of what occurred was brutal.

Facebook Australia Restricts News Publishers And Users In Response To Proposed Media Bargaining Laws. Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The content blocked was not only that of large media companies. Public interest, not-for-profit, and religious media many of whom rely heavily on Facebook to share messages with their readers, were blocked as well.

Government departments, charities and essential information services all found their pages empty.

Jesuit Communications Australia publishes Australian Catholics, Madonna and Eureka Street. As a Jesuit Ministry, our purpose and mission is not only one of service to the Catholic community — but also one of accompaniment of those at the margins, people who are pushed to the edge of society, who seek protection, who live with mental illness, who are unemployed.

At Eureka Street, this translates into a platform for the voices that are shut out elsewhere. We create communities for respectful but robust exploration of the issues and perspectives important to them; issues and perspectives that aren’t covered in the major broadsheets and online platforms.

It also means that we have a commitment to ensure that our content is free to all and not hidden behind paywalls. We pay our contributors and don’t charge our readers.

We support journalists being paid for their work. The Code and Facebook’s swift response are not about that. This is about government supporting big business trying to extract additional revenue from another big business. The Australian public, independent media outlets and many journalists, editors, and designers are the collateral damage caught up in the fray.

Like many of our fellow independent media outlets, and indeed much of the religious media in this country, we rely on Facebook not only as a channel through which to reach our audience, but one through which they, in turn, can freely share our content and connect with communities to continue the discussions about important issues that start on our pages: our faith and the role that it plays in our care for the world around us, the environment, our treatment of each other, of our First Nations Peoples, of migrants and refugees, our treatment of those with disability and of the aged, the sharing of reflections on lived experience of marginalisation in all its many forms.

 

“We are not merely publications, but communities, and Facebook has, through its actions, robbed us of one of the places where we meet.”

 

That opportunity is now gone.

We do not stand to benefit from the Code.

Whilst last week’s developments were not a complete surprise, many small independent media outlets were not expecting to be hit, or at least not hit so hard and so suddenly.

We do of course have a newsletter and comments at the end of our Eureka Street articles and will continue to bring you fresh content twice a week. But we lament what last week’s developments mean for those on the margins, people who are pushed to the edge of society, who seek protection, who live with mental illness, who are unemployed — and for their ability to share their stories.

We ask that readers continue to support us and other independent media, subscribe to our newsletters and other social media channels, and join us as we navigate this new media landscape together.

I’m sure I speak for many when I say that we are not merely publications, but communities, and Facebook has, through its actions, robbed us of one of the places where we meet.

But if the lessons of the last 12 months have taught us anything it is that we are resilient, we are creative, we will find new ways to connect.

We are bigger than this and with your support, we can and will endure. In the meantime you can continue to receive updates from Eureka street by signing up to our newsletter here: https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/signup_daily.aspx

And following us on twitter and Instagram.

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Monika LancuckiMonika Lancucki is the director of Jesuit Communications.

Main image: Facebook Australia Restricts News Publishers And Users In Response To Proposed Media Bargaining Laws. Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Topic tags: Monika Lancucki, media, Eureka Street, Facebook, news ban, independent media

 

 

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