If your Facebook News Feed is feeling a little light today, you're not alone. It's not just news pages that Facebook has taken down with its heavy-handed blocking of news sites today.
By using tech that scoops up news content and wholesale bans it, Facebook continues to have a net negative effect on the way important information moves through its platform.
Pages like RUSSH have been cleared of content - a page that we have spent years building. One that has had the dedicated attentions of staff members for over a decade. Something that we have poured our heart and soul into, to ensure we're bringing the 300,000+ audience that we built, the stories that they wanted to see when they hit like and follow. As an independent publisher with a small team, it's heartbreaking.
But we are far more concerned by the damage done to important services.
State-based health pages have been emptied of content at the height of a global pandemic. The Bureau of Meteorology has been cleared when weather events driven by climate change are worse than ever. Bushfire information stories from trusted national broadcasters cannot be shared after our worst fire season on record. Domestic violence support pages have been emptied when women are being abused in record numbers.
The domestic violence purge is particularly galling. Women who are seeking domestic violence support often have their smartphones, search histories and call logs monitored by their abusers. This is to keep them from seeking support. When they view a photo post on Facebook with information on how to escape their situation, it doesn't show up on any histories, making it a good way to view and digest that information before planning an escape.
Information designed to make it to the timelines of people who have been trained to rely on aggregated sites has now been ripped out from under them when they need it most.
Why has this happened?
Facebook went nuclear with Australian news posts over the Government's proposed Media Bargaining Code.
The Media Bargaining Code, authored by the ACCC, proposes a system where large platforms like Facebook and Google would have to pay publishers for news that is shared on their platforms.
On its face, the legislation seems simple, but due to a fundamental misunderstanding by the Government of how the news, the Internet and the industry work, the News Code serves to exclude smaller publishers in favour of massive media organisations nabbing content publishing deals with these platforms.
Both Google and Facebook have launched broad-brushed misinformation campaigns, while the Government continues to pursue legislation that obscures its impact on small publishers.
Google has since entered into an agreement with large publishers to pay them for content over the next three years through Google Showcase (as predicted), but Facebook has taken the nuclear option and banned news from its platform in Australia.
What can you do?
The power of Facebook is beyond the legislative power of the Australian government, and the brand continues to be governed by its own code of skewed capitalistic ethics.
Facebook has been accused of being an accessory to a number of global issues including the genocide in Myanmar; election hijacking in the United States; and complicity in the right-wing radicalisation of millions around the world.
For the time being, it's important to understand that Facebook is not on the side of news, factual information or public safety. Therefore, it's not the place you should be reading any news.
If you see news on Facebook from today, it's a fair chance that it's misinformation from bad actors. Misinformation is set to soar following this action, so it's time to source your news elsewhere.
Twitter is a solid place for news where you can see what happens as it occurs. We would caveat this information, however, with the knowledge that you shouldn't depend on algorithms to serve you your news. If you want news, visit sites you trust and love directly and support your favourite smaller publications with subscriptions.
Sending love and light to our the rest of our media family.