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Australia reacts to Facebook without news

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If you’re reading this, it’s not because someone you know posted it on Facebook. Although most readers of the Australia Letter come through their inbox, many people find our weekly dispatches through friends sharing on Facebook. Some people click on the links posted on the New York Times Australia Facebook page. But not more.

Since yesterday, Facebook no longer allows Australian users to display or publish news on the platform. This goes for local and international media organizations, including the New York Times. It also doesn’t allow Australian media organizations to publish content to users outside Australia – and all in response to an Australian bill that would require tech companies to pay publishers for it. articles seen on their platforms.

It’s no secret that most media companies (including the New York Times) get a substantial portion of their web traffic from Facebook. In essence, Facebook is calling the bluff of Australian law and the media companies that push it – they’re saying, in effect, that you need us more than we need you.

But for many users, it also changes the function of Facebook considerably. Gone are the days when Facebook was just a place to catch up with distant relatives and hunt down old lovers – like many people, I rely on it (and other social media platforms, Twitter in particular) to let the media companies that I am delivering. the latest news and to see what articles friends are sharing.

Our office manager, Damien Cave, wrote yesterday about the reactions of Australians, as well as the fact that many non-news pages – government agencies, nonprofits – were trapped (while conspiratorial pages with links to fake news were unaffected).

On the NYT Australia Facebook pageI asked for feedback from readers who could no longer post or find news on the site. Within hours, there were hundreds of comments. The dismay was fairly universal (with occasional comments like, “I have all the news apps, it doesn’t affect me”), but opinions on where to blame tended to diverge.

“It shows the power of social media companies and the worries about what happens when this is not verified,” Hanna Carson wrote. “Many people applauded when Trump was banned from Twitter and other social media – and I understand that sentiment – but that action effectively silenced him. How many Australians will choose to actively seek out information on other platforms – or go to a news site to get it directly? These are the actions I expected from a totalitarian government, not from a private company.

Many others have blamed the greed of Australian news organizations and the politicians who support them.

“We are victims of an Australian government acting like a pocket dog for the Murdoch media who in turn have companies like The Guardian following them, all with their hands to squeeze big tech through the federal government,” he said. writes Brian Blackwell. . “It is the consumer who remakes himself.”

Alison Mooney more or less agreed: “It stinks our government acting on behalf of Murdoch, and how out of touch the Australian leadership really is,” she wrote. “As if Facebook accepts this, imagine the precedent it would set on a global scale!”

As Australians being Australians, finding humor in every conflict, there were also quite a few readers who were specifically concerned about Betoota lawyer, Australia’s highly regarded satirical newspaper, which many of you will be happy to know, lives in the Facebook universe with its page intact.

Gabriella Coslovich, however, provided perhaps the most useful gem, with a very simple reminder: “We’ve all done it before Facebook.”

What do you think of Facebook’s decision to ban news in Australia? And have your social media habits changed – if so, how? Let us know at nytaustralia@nytimes.com.

Here are the stories from this week:



Last week we asked you what you think of Australia’s decision to host the Australian Open. Here are some responses from readers:

I think it is * foolish * to quarantine athletes and their teams in hotels in our most densely populated cities. They should be housed in the country in appropriate quarantine quarters or at least in trailer park type accommodation in places where the population is sparse and in communities that are in dire need of an influx of money. Moreover, in the country, in these contexts, athletes would have access to the outdoors for their training – and would remain far, far away from our densest population centers during the 14-day quarantine period.

– Joanne Jaworowski

I live in Melbourne. I thought the decision to host the Australian Open was a mistake, and I’m not alone. I’ve been to the Open a lot in recent years, but not this year. Many Australians are stranded abroad, unable to return. Here in Australia, while we have recently been able to live relatively normally, we feel like sitting ducks for these new Covid variants. The governments of our states have been tasked with keeping the virus under control. Their actions have been in contempt of Scott Morrison, who, without state interference, would have opened things up and, even now, is well behind other countries in rolling out vaccines. Holding the Open in the midst of a very dangerous pandemic was dangerous and unnecessary.

– Anne Arnott

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