The Impact of Facebook’s News Ban on the Environmental Movement

Many positive changes for the environment over the past decade, have begun and grown via social media. When you see other people taking their reusables out and about, protesting climate change, hear a story about endangered animals and what you can do about it, or find a local eco-store where you can buy in bulk, it makes an enormous difference.

We read, watch, listen and share content through a range of social platforms. It’s become second-nature. Making changes to your lifestyle and then sticking at this in the long-run, is much easier when shared with others. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that Facebook is one of the primary ways we do this.

Connecting with other people on the same sustainable path, finding businesses and organisations to support your eco-lifestyle, and staying up-to-date with what’s happening across the world for our planet, is vital. Social media platforms are just one of the ways you can do this. Until today, this has often been via Facebook.

This morning, however, many people woke to find that the Facebook news ban, in response to the proposed new Media Bargaining law in Australia, had affected them. So, if you usually consume or share content about the environment from websites, blogs and businesses via Facebook, you may no longer be able to do so.

Even if this is a glitch and some of the smaller organisations will return to the news feed eventually, we still need to find alternatives ways to create and share important environmental news, educational articles, updates and actions. Voices in relation to our environment must continue to be heard and we shouldn’t rely on Facebook as the main source.

What is the Facebook News Ban?

The changes are currently impacting a range of business pages and websites. Some people are suggesting this was a glitch in the algorithm and that some pages will be reverted. However, this is a great reminder about the implications for how we share environmental information, campaigns and actions in the future.

If the proposed Media Bargaining Law: Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 is passed, it will mean Facebook will have to pay for any news content on their social network. Google were also part of this, but have just signed deals with some major publishers. It has been suggested there were going to be concessions in place for Facebook, but they have moved on this without waiting for those to be announced.

The legislation is attempting to impose a ‘link tax’ on search engines and social media organisations, but this is confusing a number of different issues. Facebook has stated they are going to restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.

This means you won’t be able to share or view Australian or international links from any websites Facebook determines to be news outlets. Clearly from what is happening this morning, it includes health departments, community groups, bloggers and more.

The result is you will not see any news at all on your Facebook feed and you will not be able to share this content to your Facebook feed. People overseas will no longer be able to see or share Australian news links or content from Australians news Pages.

Australian publishers cannot share or post any kind of content to their Facebook Pages or Groups. Facebook are saying at the moment that you will still have access to your Pages, including Creator Studio and insights. It seems that because it has just begun rolling out, some people will not see the changes yet. According to former Gizmodo editor, Rae Johnston, using the share feature to cross-post an Instagram post with a news link in it to a Facebook Page, currently works.

Some Alternative Ways to Share and Consume Content About the Environment

There are plenty of alternative ways to Facebook, to ensure you continue to learn, inspire and connect, about environmental issues, problems, solutions and ideas:

  1. Make sure you bookmark the websites, blogs, eco-shops, green organisations and businesses you want to stay connected with and visit them regularly. Don’t rely on Facebook anymore.
  2. Ensure you sign up to their email newsletters and actually open and read them!
  3. Follow the most trustworthy news outlets such as ABC and other important organisations such as health departments, the bureau of meteorology, Greenpeace, WWF and so on, directly, via their websites or Apps, to make sure you get the latest news.
  4. Seek out magazines and books that relate to your areas of interest – for example sustainable design or permaculture. Libraries are a great source of information and there are lots of Aussie magazines and publications.
  5. Get involved in-person in local environmental groups and communities. For example, many Buy Nothing New groups, gardening groups, Landcare, climate action groups and so on, have get togethers and events. Be brave and turn up. If covid-19 prevents this at any stage, get creative about how to do this too – emails and video hook-ups are options.

Although it is initially unsettling, in the long-run these changes could become a new positive phase for Australians and for our environment. It might make us more creative, force us to think more broadly about where and how we consume and create content, and bring us together, to ensure we’re taking as many steps as we can to create a healthier planet, no matter what.

 

Jamie Stott | CEO Ecolateral

Jamie is the CEO and driving force behind Ecolateral, one of Australia’s longest running eco-retailers. Jamie loves that every day she helps equip people with the tools and resources to live more sustainable lives