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Facebook shutdown of Australian news sites has wider industry impact

Facebook shutdown of Australian news sites has wider industry impact
February 19, 2021

Facebook's decision from yesterday morning to implement restrictions which prevents Australians from viewing or sharing news content has had wider implications for organisations and businesses across the leisure industry.

With Australians waking up yesterday morning to find that Facebook pages of all local and global news sites were unavailable, it was soon found that numerous other sites for fitness businesses, sporting bodies and arts organisations had also been impacted.

The social media giant's action came in response to a proposed Australian law which would make major technology companies pay for news content on their platforms.

Amid much alarm over public access to key information a number of government health and emergency pages were also blocked - something Facebook later asserted was a mistake.

People outside of Australia are also unable to read or access any Australian news publications on the platform.

Mel Tempest, owner of Ballarat's Body and Soul Genesis 24/7 gym and regular Australasian Leisure Management contributor, highlighted how the shudown was impacting fitness businesses.

Tempest, who had just paid Facebook for advertising for her club told the Ballarat Courier she had just spent "tens of thousands of dollars" over the years on promotion on the platform.

She went on to say "(Facebook founder Mark) Zuckerberg is out to prove a point and unfortunately ... businesses are going to suffer.

"This is not a good time for any business to have social media shut down (with) a lot of businesses having invested in their social media platform."

Sport Australia has also advise of a number of national sporting organisations (NSOs), local sporting clubs and groups that have been impacted by the change, explaining "affected organisations should have received a notification to their page from Facebook, which allows them to appeal the blanket ban."

The agency also suggests that while content is shut down "from a member engagement perspective you might wish to consider using alternative channels such as your website, emails, Twitter, WhatsApp or Instagram which are not impacted at this stage and are still functioning normally."

In arts, Perth-based website has advised that the shut down has impacted "community groups promoting arts, events and culture in Perth and WA", stating "this will have a significant impact on the arts sector, which is already reeling from venue restrictions, the recent lockdown and prevailing risk and uncertainty."

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union for Australia’s journalists, performers and artists, described the decision as "a desperate act of a company with too much power that thinks it is beyond the reach of any government."

The MEAA continued that the block will "encourage the spread of misinformation at a time when factual and credible journalism is more important than ever."

The Australian Government has strongly criticised the move, saying it demonstrated the "immense market power of these digital social giants", while Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the ban on news information had a "huge community impact".

Australasian Leisure Management has also been impacted by Facebook's move.

However, last October Australasian Leisure Management stopped posting to Facebook, with Publisher Nigel Benton explaining "we did this because of the platform's misinformation, failure to combat hate speech and it becoming a place where a lot of really shonky products were advertised.

"While Facebook's decision to shut down access to news is a surprise it just goes to show what an unreliable platform it is for anything other than staying in touch with friends which, after all, is what it was created as."

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