What The Facebook News Ban Means for Small Businesses

On Thursday, 18 February 2021, we awoke to find Facebook had barred Australians from viewing or sharing news content on their platform. But how has and will this impact the business community?

On Thursday, 18 February 2021, Australians awoke to the news Facebook has banned users and news media from viewing or sharing news content. Pages for Nine News, Guardian Australia and other news platforms are now displaying a ‘No Posts Yet’ heading in place of what as of yesterday, were thriving news feeds.

Facebook Australia had said back in September 2020 if the Australian Government proceeded with the News Media Bargaining Code — a regulation enforcing payment from tech giants, like Google and Facebook to media outlets for use of their content — they would do exactly this. 

The ban follows the bargaining code getting the green light on Friday, 12 February 2021. However, since then, ministers have put forward further amendments, including changes to algorithm notifications.

However, this has many businesses concerned about if this will impact what they can share on Facebook. We’ve spoken to our Head of Digital & Growth and tested what can be shared to help you know how the news ban impacts you.

The Guardian is one such news corporation whose content has been wiped from Facebook. Screenshot taken 18 February 2021.

Why Facebook Has Banned News Sharing & Publication in Australia

Facebook’s ban of news sharing and publication in Australia is a direct response to the Australian Government’s News Media Bargaining Code. They issued a warning in September 2020 they would reluctantly do this exact thing if the government proceeded with the code. 

“Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing Director, Will Easton, said.

In a public online statement from Facebook, they said news content only makes up 4% of content on Facebook. They also advised Australian news publishers also received roughly 5.1 billion free referrals from the platform, which they estimate to be a worth of $407 million to these outlets.

Facebook also had plans to soon launch Facebook News, which would pay media outlets for use of their content. This too would also be halted if the code goes ahead with no amendments in consideration of Facebook, with the platform saying they would invest in countries who would instead.

Localsearch’s Director of Digital & Growth, Adam Boote, said news media content being permanently banned from Facebook would be a massive loss for Australians, and even comes with potential risks. 

“Even if we’re not specifically looking for news on Facebook, we’re seeing it,” Mr. Boote said.

“You go on Facebook and you see your local news group has shared an Amber Alert for a missing child and everyone shares it. Or, there’s a massive weather event expected in a few days, and because of the nature of Facebook, it’s everywhere so you can’t miss it. We won’t see this information from credible news sources.”

Facebook has been clear they’re willing and wanting to work with the Australian Government and the future of news media on the platform relies on what happens next with the News Media Bargaining Code. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has told the ABC he has spoken to Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg this morning, and while the code will be going ahead, they will be discussing possible amendments to work for both parties.

How will the ban impact small businesses?

In regards to what you can post on Facebook, the platform has said it is business as normal for anyone other than news media outlets. This means if you are a business, you can still post links, blogs and other posts, as long as the link is not one from one of the banned news websites.

As mentioned, news only makes up 4% of content on Facebook in Australia, so unfortunately, you likely won’t see much change to your visibility. The platform still remains a social media platform with an algorithm geared towards the engagement of the user. So, the success of your Facebook results still relies heavily on creating engaging content your audience will be interested in liking, commenting on and sharing. 

However, Adam Boote said, as always, businesses shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket, and be present and active on many different online platforms.

“Facebook, Google and other tech giants are businesses too. They can cease to exist,” he said.

“Ensuring your business is on the platforms your audience are using isn’t just for reaching those people and growing their business, but it helps future-proof themselves for things like this, if they ever were to impact businesses. For example, Facebook also owns Instagram, but they haven’t expanded the ban to that platform.”

Some larger corporations have seen their Facebook Pages also restricted, like a news outlet. However, the ones observed have been retailers who are frequently in the news and distributing news content. Small businesses should still have no concern.

Will Facebook’s news ban impact Facebook Ads?

In a poll we ran over on the Localsearch Twitter page, we found 16.7% of respondents said they actively use Facebook to keep up to date with news. 41.7% said they do not and 41.7% said not proactively. It’s clear users of Facebook are still very much on the platform for social and community purposes.

Adam Boote said businesses who advertise on the platform should not be concerned with the possibility of decreased reach opportunities.

“People are using Facebook to connect with friends, family and, if you’re doing it right, businesses too, so I wouldn’t expect to see many people leave the platform because of this” Mr. Boote said.

“Ads rely on people seeing them, so if anything, all the people going to Facebook to see who has had their content banned and who hasn’t is going to be good news if you have ads right now.”

What can and can’t be published on Facebook now?

On Facebook’s blog announcing the ban of news content on their platform, they stated:

For Australian publishers:

  • They are restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages. 
  • Admins will still be able to access other features from their Facebook Page, including Page Insights and Creator Studio.
  • We will continue to provide access to all other Standard Facebook services, including data tools and CrowdTangle.

For international publishers:

  • They can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts can’t be viewed or shared by Australian audiences.

For our Australian community:

  • They cannot view or share Australian or international news content on Facebook or content from Australian and international news Pages.

For our international community:

  • They cannot view or share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news Pages.

What news has been banned on Facebook?

Existing posts from most local and national Australian news and media Facebook Pages have now been replaced with a ‘No Posts Yet’ heading, and they have been restricted from posting new content. This includes, but is not limited to:

When posting a link from a banned content source, you’ll receive an error message blocking you from doing so, removing the option of even posting sources yourself from news websites.

Adam Boote is available for comment. For all media enquiries, please contact Sarah Russo, Senior UX Content Writer, [email protected].

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