Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to examine how Australian not-for-profits were adversely affected when Facebook shut down access to news content on the site. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, have profoundly impacted the way not-for-profit organisations and communities interact and communicate with each other. The Facebook news ban illustrated just how reliant not-for-profits have become on the social media platform, with many using the site not only to foster relationships with the community, but as a tool to raise desperately needed funding for their causes. Many Australian communities have become too reliant on Facebook to connect with each other, as was evident when Facebook blocked all news content on its site in Australia, and inadvertently blocked information from not-for-profit organisations. The Facebook news ban illustrates how dangerous it is for communities to rely on social media corporations to act as an intermediary between them and their audience to provide essential public services.
Keywords: #Australian #notforprofits #Facebook #newsban #socialmedia #communities
Communities and Social Media: The Facebook news ban and its effect on Australian not-for-profit organisations.
On Thursday 18 February 2021, Facebook blocked Australian users from viewing or sharing news content on their Facebook profiles, without any warning. Overseas users were also prevented from sharing Australian news content on their profiles. A press release on Facebook’s website that morning advised, “in response to Australia’s proposed new Media Bargaining law, Facebook will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content” (Easton, 2021).
The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code passed in the Australian Senate on 25 February 2021. The code was designed to create a level playing field to ensure Australian news media businesses are fairly paid for their original news content. In order to comply with this new law, digital companies such as Google and Facebook must now, “negotiate with Australian media companies over payment for news content and notify them of algorithm changes” (Pearson, 2021).
Facebook assured users on 18 February 2021, that the changes affecting news content would not, “otherwise change Facebook’s products and services in Australia” (Easton, 2021) and urged Australians to continue to, “grow their businesses and join Groups to help support their local communities” (Easton, 2021). This was not the case, however, as hundreds of profiles for Australian community groups, charity organisations and health services were also blocked, along with Australian news content publishers.
Many Australian communities have become too reliant on Facebook to connect with each other, as was evident when Facebook blocked all news content on its site in Australia, and inadvertently blocked information from not-for-profit organisations. The Facebook news ban illustrates how dangerous it is for communities to rely on social media corporations to act as an intermediary between them and their audience to provide essential public services.
Social media platforms, such as Facebook, have profoundly impacted the way not-for-profit organisations and communities interact and communicate with each other, “encouraging openness, sharing, authenticity, dialogue and engagement” (Campbell, 2020, p.9). One of Facebook’s five guiding company principles is to provide a service to help people build connection and community. Facebook notes on their website that their company mission is to, “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” (Facebook, 2021). Social media platforms have given not-for-profit organisations the tools to be able to reach more people within the community, “making persistent contact and pervasive awareness possible” (Hampton, 2016, p.102) without the constraints of physical proximity.
Hampton (2016) notes that, “the low-cost, low-bandwidth, broadcast nature of person-to-network contact affords persistence because contact can be maintained without substantively drawing from the time and resources” (p111) which is why so many not-for-profit organisations rely on Facebook. With little to no budget, many of these organisations cannot afford to run expensive websites and media campaigns while providing services to the community. Facebook supplements this connection without, “displacing contact through other channels of communication” (Hampton, 2016, p.111) by providing a lost cost solution that is relatively low maintenance and can be run with limited human resources.
Facebook has not only impacted the way communities interact with each other but has also changed the way communities are defined; from the idea of “in-person, neighbourhood relationships, to the many ways that people are connected for the exchange of information and support” (Hampton, 2016, p.103). These online communities provide a platform for not-for-profit service providers to “exchange support, bonding and bridging social capital” (Hampton, 2016, p.103) and for many of these organisations Facebook is their only contact point with the community. This ease of access has put many not-for-profits in the dangerous position of becoming too reliant on Facebook. This was illustrated when many crisis and domestic violence services Facebook pages — including Suicide Prevention Australia, 1800Respect and Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence — disappeared during the news ban, potentially leaving at-risk people without critical safety services.
The Sacred Heart Mission, a not-for-profit organisation who provides food and shelter for the homeless, also discovered their Facebook page was inadvertently blocked during the news ban. The organisation relies on Facebook to quickly deliver messages to a broad audience, including vulnerable people who use the charity’s services. With the page blocked, this time-critical information was denied to families needing food relief during the pandemic, leaving them with no other way to contact Sacred Heart Mission. Brianna Casey, CEO of Foodbank Australia, said it was “unacceptable that one of the organisation’s primary tools to help people connect with food relief was unavailable” (Coggan, 2021) illustrating the increasing reliance the organisations and the community has on Facebook to provide a connection for people to vital emergency relief services.
Hampton & Wellman (2018) note that, “new technologies introduce transformations in how people form and maintain relationships as well as how they gain access to information and support” (p.647) which is one of the main advantages of social media platforms such as Facebook, that provides a lifeline between vulnerable people and free support services. One could argue that Facebook, “allows people to overcome historical spatial limits on interaction” (Hampton & Wellman, 2018, p.647) by removing the need for charities and clients to be physically present in the same location; however it is this ease of access and connection that has provided a false sense of security to many not-for-profit organisations.
Many of these organisations now rely on Facebook as their one source of contact, connection, and information sharing. When this connection is removed, or blocked without any prior warning, the system breaks down and the vulnerable members of the community bear the brunt. Boczkowski et al. (2018) discovered that, “people shared a sense of having difficulties not being constantly connected” (p.3530) when researching the effects of social media within the community. The Facebook news ban illustrated just how reliant not-for-profits have become on the social media platform, with many using the site not only to foster relationships with the community, but as a tool to raise desperately needed funding for their causes.
Social media platforms, such as Facebook, have enabled not-for-profit organisations to avoid costs related to traditional press and advertising, and given them a way to maintain direct access to their audience. This has given many not-for-profit organisations more control over the messaging they convey to the community, with the aim of building relationships with a wider audience online. Campbell (2020) argues that although social media may be convenient and cost effective, allowing not-for-profit organisations to, “connect with potential members, volunteers and donors online” (p.8) they are finding it increasingly more difficult to convert these virtual relationships into actual meaningful relationships in the real world.
Lucas (2016) discovered that the main reason people visited a not-for-profit organisation’s Facebook was, “the opportunity to obtain up‐to‐date information about the charity’s work and/or issues that were important to them” (p.4). This highlights the fact that the community do not see Facebook as a platform for fostering a relationship with not-for-profit organisations; rather they see it merely as a tool that provides data and information. Campbell (2020) argues that although Facebook can help facilitate a, “deep engagement with public that could facilitate collective action in the community or lead to greater social impact” (p.9) this does not help create or maintain real relationships within the community. This illustrates a need for not-for-profit organisations to reconsider the way they utilise Facebook, to become less reliant on the social media platform to provide a sole connection with the community.
On 16 March 2021, it was reported that Facebook had agreed to deals with several major news media companies to pay for Australian news content shared on the social media platform. While the exact details of these deals remain confidential, it will allow small local news outlets as well as the major news networks to negotiate with Facebook to get paid for the news content they create for their communities. It is not yet clear what will happen if Facebook is unable to reach a deal with a particular news company. Will we see a repeat of the week-long news ban that only ended after intervention from the Australian Federal Government? Will Australian not-for-profit organisations that rely on Facebook for connection with their communities have to be continuously aware that their pages could be indefinitely shut down again in the future, with little or no warning?
The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code is a ground-breaking policy that has not yet been put to the test in Australia. There is still room for the policy to evolve and expand, as more media outlets sign up to be paid for their news content that is shared on Facebook. Although the bill closely resembles similar policy implemented in other countries, this is the first time such a law has passed in Australia. The main limitation of this paper is the lack of further information relating to the code, and the lack of in-depth anecdotal evidence relating to the Facebook news ban. Although the policy has been signed off and implemented, we are yet to see exactly how this will impact the Australian media corporations, Australian Facebook pages and Australian not-for-profit organisations in the future.
Further research into this subject is required to measure the long-term impact the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code will have on Facebook and Australian news outlets. Facebook has demonstrated that they have the power and the willingness to block users on their site without warning, when faced with pushback from media corporations and the Australian Government. Many not-for-profits organisations cannot afford to have their Facebook profiles blocked for weeks at a time, without notice. Further research into how these organisations react and evolve to adapt to a volatile social media platform is needed to measure these trends.
The ideas presented in this paper could be developed into a long-term case study on the use of Facebook by not-for-profits as a fundraising tool and connection with the broader community. The Facebook news ban blocked many pages for almost a week, which did not provide sufficient time to collect any meaningful data on changes in user behaviour. However, if not-for-profit organisations continued to experience their pages being blocked on a regular basis, this could force them to search for another digital platform to base their organisations. It would be interesting to discover how many not-for-profit organisations have changed their current business models, based on the Facebook news ban. Considering that many people see not-for-profit organisations profiles purely as an information and fundraising tool, many of these organisations may consider alternative methods of fostering real life human connection within their communities instead of relying on Facebook to provide this. It would also be interesting to see if a new social media platform emerges in future; one that is built and designed solely for charities and not-for-profit organisations, that doesn’t rely on corporate social media companies to provide an unstable platform, or news media to provide funding.
Boczkowski, P., Mitchelstein, E., Matassi, M. (2018). News comes across when I’m in a moment of leisure: Understanding the practices of incidental news consumption on social media. new media & society, 20(10), 3523–3539. DOI: 10.1177/1461444817750396
Campbell, V. (2020). Facebook and relationship building in a registered charity: An exploration of Facebook communication to enhance real-world relationships with the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). Breastfeeding Review, 28(2), 7-13. https://search-proquest-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/docview/2480821324?pq-origsite=primo
Coggan, M. (2021, February 18). Australia Pro-Bono. Charities swept up in media bargaining fight, as Facebook cracks down on Aussie news. https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2021/02/charities-swept-up-in-media-bargaining-fight-as-facebook-cracks-down-on-aussie-news/
Easton, W. (2021, February 17). Changes to Sharing and Viewing News on Facebook in Australia. Facebook Newsroom. https://about.fb.com/news/2021/02/changes-to-sharing-and-viewing-news-on-facebook-in-australia/
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Hampton, K., Wellman, B. (2018). Lost and saved . . . again: The moral panic about the loss of community takes hold of social media. Contemporary Sociology, 47(6), 643-651. DOI: 10.1177/0094306118805415
Hutchens, G. (2020, February 21). The Facebook news ban revealed how problematic it is to rely on corporations to provide fundamental public services. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-21/when-facebook-banned-news-australia-we-saw-role-it-plays/13175698
Lucas, E. (2016). Reinventing the rattling tin: How UK charities use Facebook in fundraising. International journal of non-profit and voluntary sector marketing, (22)2, 1-9. DOI: 10.1002/nvsm.1576
Pearson, N. (2021, February 25). Media code governing Facebook and Google in Australia becomes law. Nine News. https://www.9news.com.au/national/media-laws-facebook-google-monopoly-josh-frydenberg-house-of-representatives-vote/1fc34014-b0bd-420c-adb2-d90f539b6392
21 thoughts on “The Facebook news ban and its effect on Australian not-for-profit organisations.”
I really loved your paper and really enjoyed the format of it, when you gave a chronology to the events from the Facebook news ban. It was really smart and easy to understand! Well done!
I remember seeing the ban when I tried accessing the entertainment weekly site on Facebook. I was really shocked and didn’t know what was happening at the time.
What was insanely shocking at first, was that emergency services facebook pages had also been banned within the news ban. This really caused an uproar and I am pretty certain that those pages were released again as it is essential access to potentially dangerous news information. According to Emma Ricknell in regards to freedom of expression online, “It does so by examining the issue from a less common angle, namely who governs the Internet and the platforms where much of the toxic material appears”(2020. p. 110).
Whilst there is so much fake news out there, I always thought that we, as social media users, had a responsibility in knowing not to believe everything we read online and that we are trusted to check our information. However that does not happen for many people, and this is where fake news can spread so easily, and become part of the gossip category. It really is a vicious cycle. I think that Facebook’s decision to reinstate news pages was a great decision indeed, as it affected so many companies and workers who are actively involved and employed to run these pages.
Hope you have a great day!
Ricknell, E. (2020). Freedom of expression and alternatives for internet governance: Prospects and pitfalls. Media and Communication, 8(4), 110-120. doi:http://dx.doi.org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.17645/mac.v8i4.3299
I really liked reading your paper! Thank you for sharing it.
Facebook is a complex social networking site and it is utilised for multiple different reasons. I do believe that the Facebook news ban illustrates how dangerous it is for communities to rely on social media. Facebook is a social media that is very influential but also has a lot of misinformation spread across the site (Del Vicario, 2016).
Is it so bad that Facebook block these accounts though? With the mass influx of misinformation, if there are other social media platforms that not-for-profit organisations can use, surly it could be beneficial. I do believe that Facebook does provided a space for followers to connect with the organisation, but there are other social media that could provide the same affect. I think that Twitter is a great platform that not-for-profit organisations can thrive.
Your paper makes me question if: Do you believe that not-for-profit organisations and other similar communities rely on Facebook to much?
Thanks for a great read,
Del Vicario, M., Bessi, A., Zollo, F., Petroni, F., Scala, A., Caldarelli, G., & Quattrociocchi, W. (2016). The spreading of misinformation online. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(3), 554-559. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26467425
Thanks so much for this interesting paper. I have worked in communications for several small not for profits and I know of many that were impacted by the Facebook ban.
Many small not for profits allocate minimal resourcing to communications and marketing. Particularly communications. Sometimes the ‘social media’ is left up to the receptionist to manage. With no disrespect to receptionists! But if they don’t have the required skill set to manage the communications of the business this is where things can fall over like crisis management.
It’s often up to the CEO or equalivant to ensure the charity has a functional website (which is resourced) as their online ‘shopfront and then whatever social media channels align with the audience. And to make it a priority. So much of this audience and community is on Facebook.
Hanna, Rohm, & Crittenden (2011) wrote that ‘it is no longer enough to merely incorporate social media as standalone elements of a marketing plan.’ which I think smaller organisations need to be able to understand so that they don’t become so reliant on one platform. They need to be able to own their own website, keep it up to date, and then share information with the social media nodes.
I don’t have any further questions for you as I think everyone else has addressed the ones I was curious about, but well done on an interesting paper.
Hanna, R., Rohm, A., & Crittenden, V. L. (2011). We’re all connected: The power of the social media ecosystem. Business Horizons, 54(3), 265–273. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bushor.2011.01.007
Hi Michelle, thanks for your feedback. It is interesting to receive feedback from people who have worked in the not-for-profit sector on this issue. I was concerned that having not experienced working in the industry, I may not do the argument any justice. However the research all pointed to exactly what you mentioned above – many organisations simply do not have the people or the budget to run sophist acted websites and marketing campaigns. This is understandable, given many do not receive Gvt funding, but what is alarming is how many of these use FB and social media and their main source of communications, despite the fact these platforms are not managed as a matter of priority.
I agree with the quote you included; social media is constantly evolving and so are the needs of customers, communities and the less fortunate. It is not just enough to have a FB page anymore, however without a viable alternative available, it is difficult to guess what the solution could be.
This was a really topical and engaging paper. Even without being able to understand the immediate impacts of this decision, it does make me think a lot about our relationship with Facebook and the power dynamics in that relationship.
I wanted to draw out this point here:
Lucas (2016) discovered that the main reason people visited a not-for-profit organisation’s Facebook was, “the opportunity to obtain up‐to‐date information about the charity’s work and/or issues that were important to them” (p.4). This highlights the fact that the community do not see Facebook as a platform for fostering a relationship with not-for-profit organisations; rather they see it merely as a tool that provides data and information.
I think that’s a really interesting statement for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’d be inclined to argue that visiting an organisation’s Facebook page to get information about a charity’s work is a form of engagement, and if not an element of remaining connected with the charity’s larger community, then at least an entry point to being part of the community.
I obviously haven’t read the full article you referenced, but I also think it fails to consider that most people interact with a charity’s content as it appears on their feed, either because they follow the charity or through advertising. The way users interact with that content may be very different to how they engage with the information page they seek out. In my experience users tend to visit the main Facebook page for a charity if they’re seeking contact information, wanting to make a specific post (usually a complaint!) or to follow the charity.
I’ve worked in non-profit communications for most of my career, and in particular, one of the organisation’s I worked for our Facebook comments section was always thriving. Facebook provided a space for followers to connect with the mission, and occasionally by sharing their stories, they would connect with one another. I think this relationship would also be very cause dependent – in my instance, the relationship people were fostering were with representatives of the organisation (nurses) and so for many followers there was a pre-existing, offline, sense of intimacy that guided a lot of these interactions.
I’d love to get your thoughts on this – do you think the way people engage with content on their feed is more conducive to community building? And to what extent do you think it relies on demographic and cause as to how a user views their relationship with the organisation?
The ban did give me a lot to think about – in some organisation’s I’ve worked for, being banned on Facebook would be crippling, or at least would cut off a key source of communication with our community. We may have had Twitter and Instagram (and a website), but the main place our demographic liked to engage with us was on Facebook. On the other hand I’ve worked in organisation’s where Facebook was an afterthought and not at all a fundraising or messaging priority. If nothing else, I think it’s a good lesson for non-profit professionals to consider how they’re building a community that can sustain itself in ways that aren’t dependent on external infrastructure, such as Facebook, or even more broadly like GoFundMe or Salesforce.
Thanks for sharing this paper! I thought it was a really engaging topic to discuss!
Hi Maddison, thanks for your considered response. I believe that Facebook and other social media platforms are a good starting point to create the initial connection between organisations and communities. However, in order to maintain a relationship that creates real lasting impact, I would argue that this has to take place in real life, face to face.
I can’t speak for the younger generation, but I suspect the older generation (I am GenX) who haven’t grown up with technology as a constant in their formative years, would see social media as more of a tool rather than a form of community.
It is my experience that following a cause online and chatting with the organisers over FB is nice, however nothing beats meeting people in real life, running a charity event together, or attending a fundraiser with other people in the community. When I meet the organisers in real life, my connection to the cause becomes tangible. I am more likely to align myself with this group because I relate to them on a human level. Similar to business networking – it is nice to send emails but nothing beats real life interactions with people.
The FB news ban really highlighted to me just how dependent many organisations have become on social media as their one point of connection – and the reasons are understandable, for many it is a matter of necessity. However I do feel that we are in danger of replacing real-life human interaction with technology, forsaking real impact for convenience.
Thank you for an insightful and great read. You have articulated your points very well and it was easy to follow through with the points you’ve made. I wasn’t aware of the Facebook news ban or how it affected the non-for-profit organizations in Australia so thank you for educating me on this topic through your paper.
I do agree that we have become dependent and rely too much on social media platforms for the majority of our communication and interconnectivity as well as in the way we consume news information. Our dependency on social media platforms leaves us vulnerable when the platform’s policy changes or when certain functions are banned as it does affect us as users and organizations that are introduced on these digital platforms.
You’ve said that Facebook is often the only contact and communication platform for a large number of communities and this again, leaves them vulnerable when changes do happen. Facebook is one of the largest platforms and a source where a lot of the generations receive and retain news information about organizations and other news.
You also mentioned how non-profit organizations don’t have the funding or financial backing to create their own website and control the policies, which is why they are so reliant on the platform and features Facebook has to offer them.
Do you think there are other platforms that these non-for-profit organizations can utilize as an alternative to Facebook? I think Twitter is another great platform for these organizations due to the functions and features it offers.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
Thanks for your feedback Saranya! Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an alternative platform for not-for-profits that rivals the benefits of using FB at the moment. Even with the threat of being shut down without warning, it is still cheaper and easier for companies to use FB, as it provides a place to share photos, information and fundraising all in the one place. It has become the unofficial “shopfront” for many organisations to connect with community.
I personally love Twitter, but I don’t think it offers the same functionality as FB for not-for-profits. And even if these organisations did move to Twitter, they would still be at the mercy of a foreign corporate company, with little recourse if their pages are shut down.
I did further research last night, and it seems there are no Australian alternatives at the moment. There is a an Aus Gvt website that lists registered charities and not-for-profits – https://www.acnc.gov.au/ – it is my opinion that if an alternative were to be offered, it should be on this site. If I were running this site, I would create a platform similar to FB that would be overseen by the Aus Gvt. This would ensure that people are donating to legitimate charities, and would also provide a secure place for charities to connect with the community, without the fear of being shut down without warning.
I thoroughly enjoyed your conference paper, it is very well written and covers a very important subject that greatly effects those less fortunate in our society. In Facebook’s haste to flex their ‘muscle’ they definitely did not do their homework before flicking the switch on Australian News media and left many of our most vulnerable citizens without the help and the safety net they require to simply survive as you mention in your paper. I guess you could say we are all partly to blame for creating this powerful ‘monster’ (Facebook) because so many people use this social media platform on a daily basis it has become part of their lives.
Your paper is a great read, easy to follow and your points are clear and concise and I hope many of these not-for-profits do take action and find other platforms or even sponsors to host their sites so as not to be left in this position again. Maybe the government or a large website hosting company could set up a platform purely for hosting not-for-profit sites to give everyone that peace of mind that this type of problem won’t reoccur. Monopolies such as Facebook can lead to a number of problems even when they are simply a by-product of a much larger situation as was the case here.
Thanks for a wonderful paper Michelle.
Thanks for your feedback Bernie, I really appreciate you taking the time to read my paper. It is ironic that on Facebook’s blog, they assured users that, “the changes affecting news content would not, otherwise change Facebook’s products and services in Australia” (Easton, 2021) and urged Australians to continue to, “grow their businesses and join Groups to help support their local communities” (Easton, 2021). They were either unaware that the news ban would inadvertently affect other sites, or they just didn’t care. Either way, I believe it demonstrates how reliant so many people are on FB. I was really surprised how many people actually got their news from FB, when the news sites all have their own websites? Personally, I would never rely on FB for much more than sharing photos with family, and would never use it as the sole point of contact for my business!
I really enjoyed your paper! I was very interested in the Facebook news ban when it happened earlier this year. I like how you have chosen this topical issue and used it as a lens to analyse how ethical corporate social media platforms are. Your paper has made me more aware of the power that social media platforms like Facebook have over content creators. It is easy to forget that the platform owners have the ultimate power to control how information is produced and received by people. I agree that it’s dangerous for communities to rely on social media corporations to act as an intermediary between them and their audience.
You mention how Facebook is often the only contact point for many communities. This obviously makes these communities very vulnerable. However, do you think these communities would be completely destroyed if they could not use the platform of Facebook to communicate? Or do you think these online communities would be strong enough to migrate to a new platform and re-establish themselves? So basically I’m asking how dependant you think online communities are on the platform in which they are created!
Thanks for sharing this article, it was a great read.
If you have time, please check out my paper on Instagram and feminism! Here’s the link: https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/28/instagram-celebrities-leading-a-new-wave-of-feminism/#comment-450
Hi Rebekah, thanks for your feedback; I really appreciate it.
I agree with you – I think a lot of people have forgotten (or don’t realise?) that FB is a foreign entity, a business whose aim is to collect user data and sells it to advertisers for profit. When the news ban happened, people were so angry that they had no rights or control over their pages. I found this so interesting, because it seems many people view FB as a service that owes them something.
I believe the ease of using FB as a main contact point has made communities extremely vulnerable. In some cases, it has completely replaced face-to-face communication. I think humans are very adaptable, and if FB were to completely disappear overnight, we would find a way to contact each other. I would like to think that communities would go back to the old ways, meeting in town halls and community centers, congregating in suburbs and helping each other in real life, not virtually.
As a generation Z journalism student who used Facebook frequently for news, this was a very interesting topic for me. I never read the news paper and missed the news at night on tv due to work.
I always wondered why the news was shared on social media when it wasn’t an effective way for these news companies to make money but I can understand it’s for exposure and because it’s still an extremely effective way to spread the latest news. With the coronavirus keeping people in their houses, having news on Facebook was an accessible way to connect everyone to what was happening outside of their houses.
Do you see this ban as a ban of free speech onFacebook? It seems to come across that way. Would you also say that Facebook considered how these not-for-profit businesses would be effected? I would love to know your thoughts.
Hi Lauren, thanks for your feedback. I find it so interesting that you rely on FB for the news; is this because you follow certain news sites on FB or do you read news that is shared by friends on your timeline? I still don’t quite understand why people use FB for news, although I am Gen X so that might explain it!! When the news ban happened, people were so angry because they wouldn’t be able to see BOM updates or emergency services updates…. but these places have their own websites, so why wouldn’t people just go there? Is it a convenience thing? I really don’t know. Personally I read each news site religiously each morning (news.com, then goldcoastbulletin, then guardian, then theconversation) then Twitter! I very rarely use FB and if I do, it’s to post the odd family photo, visible to friends only, for the overseas relatives to see. I don’t consider the news ban was a ban on free speech – rather a power play by a large foreign company. It had nothing to do with free speech, consumers, news, communities, community. It was a corporate company fighting with the Aus Gvt with little regard to the fallout within the Aus community. I don’t believe FB considered their customers at all – they were simply trying to prove a point. In my mind, the point was – don’t rely on FB to run your business!!
I follow the news on Facebook because I find that apart from the stories that are only full of paid advertisements, news companies tend to post their most important stories online as they are in the public’s interest. This is normally to do with massive world news, e.g. an earthquake, or to do with a missing persons. For me, it is easier to get to the point. Gen X do tend to consume news in a more traditional way and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. For me, as I said, I miss the TV news due to work and I am not big on reading the paper.
I would agree with you and say that it is completely a convenience thing. Whether that comes down to people being lazy or not, I don’t know. People want things quickly and easily provided to them. I also think Twitter is a greta way to consume news but with the comments, (which are always interesting to read), the word count limits people to saying what they actually want to say, whether it’s something intelligent or not.
It can definitely be seen as a power play which did change a lot of things but as you said, Facebook really needed to consider how it would effect them as it caused a massive uproar.
I can both agree and disagree with your last statement about not letting Facebook run your business. Traditional news consumption is still an extremely effective way to consume news but with Gen Z being a very digital generation, the news is slowly converging and there is not much we can do to stop that so we must converge with it.
Thank you for your reply,
Thanks for the effort and research that’s gone into this paper, it’s a very interesting read!
I agree with you that we have become too reliant on certain digital platforms for our communication and interconnectivity (In this case, Facebook).
It leaves us at the mercy to that platform and it’s policies, functional limitations, etc. However, I struggle to see an alternative. The draw to Facebook is it’s incredibly large user-base and ease of usability, I think this is why it is so popular for not-for-profits.
If we don’t use a large social media platform such as Facebook, can you think of a potential alternative?
Hi Michelle (and Jordan),
Firstly, congratulations on interesting and informative paper. I did some research on the possible effects of the ‘News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code’ when it was first announced last year and it was very intriguing to see this whole situation play out when it came into affect.
While I agreed with a lot of what you were saying, I was surprised to see that there was no alternative option presented. As my question is similar to Jordan’s, I thought I would stay on this thread to make it easier for you to respond. In your opinion, what other platform or service should non-for-profits turn to as an alternative to Facebook? Especially, as you mention, many non-for-profits don’t have the money to create their own website. Also, if they need to provide for a particular community, there is a need for their services to be accessible wherever that community are most comfortable and/or prevalent.
Would love to hear your thoughts.
Hi Mads, thanks for delving deeper into this topic!
Following on from my reply to Jordan, I started thinking further about an alternative FB and what this might look like. In an ideal world, the Australian Government would take control of this and offer a similar service to FB, because I think people enjoy the format, so you would want to replicate this as much as possible. I had a look online, and there is indeed an Australian Charities and Not-for-profits website run by the Gvt (https://www.acnc.gov.au/) … it’s not the most exciting website I’ve ever seen, but if we’re imagining an alternative, this could be the place. I suppose my point is that it is dangerous to rely on a large foreign corporate to provide the link between vital services and the community. In my mind, this should be something that the Gvt provides and monitors. In this way, charities and not-for-profits can be sure that they will not be held ransom by a corporate like FB. Similarly, for consumers and the community, they can be sure that the charities they are supporting are legit and registered with the Gvt. Ideally, it would be wonderful to see FB (or an alternative site) used in conjunction with face-to-face interactions, instead of a replacement to human connection.
Hi Jordan, thanks for your comments. You are absolutely right – it is difficult to see an alternative because we have all become so reliant on FB we can’t imagine how we ever survived without it! But we did – communities have been thriving and surviving long before social media. I completely understand the draw of FB for not-for-profits – it is free, easy to use, and connects them with more people than ever before. They can send out mass communications, organise events and raise funds all in the one space. But with this convenience, we are losing the precious face-to-face engagement that creates the most impact within communities. I think the danger of relying on FB is that it is a foreign entity, whose aim is to sell data to advertisers for profit. Users cannot trust that the news ban (or something worse?) won’t happen again in the future. A potential alternative would be a Government run site that is created purely for Australian charities and not-for-profits. The site would not be run for profit – it would be run as a true way of connecting services with communities. I feel that this would provide some level of comfort that the site would always be available without being at the mercy of a foreign corporate.
Well thought out, Michelle! I agreed with you on so many points. It did make me consider at the time of this event, that perhaps it is not purely the organisations reliance on FaceBook, but also their audience demographic that is more likely to use only this platform and less likely to even consider others. Generally speaking, most organisations use other platforms, like Twitter (for example). I would assume it is presumably the fact that Facebook networks the people more and Twitter is more about snippets of thoughts and ideas? Personally, I prefer FaceBook, so with the ban, I switched to Twitter but did not enjoy the difference in experience. I wonder if the ban was unintentional in its banning of such charities and the possibility of this being something FaceBook needs to investigate more fully should this happen again.
Thanks for the brilliant read!
Hi Emma, thanks for your feedback! It is so interesting that you considered the demographic, because I thought FB has become uncool and was only used by older people, while the young ones were off using new apps like TikTok and Snapchat! However, according to SproutSocial, “users ages 25–34 years are the largest demographic. In the distribution of global Facebook users, 19.3% were male users between 25 and 34 years old and 13.1% were female users in the same age range. While Facebook users can be found at all ages, 72.8% are within the 18–44 years old range.” (https://sproutsocial.com/insights/facebook-stats-for-marketers/)
Perhaps this explains why so many people were angry about not being able to access the news – because this is the only way they have ever read the news? I never use FB for the news – I always go to the individual news sites, so the idea that people were so angry about not being able to read news on FB really confused me! I guess everyone has different reasons for using each media platform – I love Twitter, but that’s because I follow writers and journalists so I read it just for fun. I think the shutting down of community pages was an unfortunate side effect of the news ban, however I don’t believe FB really cared too much. They were simply proving a point, as a large foreign corporate company, to the Aus Gvt with little regard for the charities and not-for-profits that were effected.