Many Facebook users and page administrators are hoping a review of Australia’s defamation laws will bring the country in line with other jurisdictions following a dramatic High Court ruling last month.
Even big publishers are reeling following the decision by the High Court of Australia to grant former youth detainee Dylan Voller the right to sue major media outlets including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and Sky News.
Voller launched defamation claims against the publishers following what were claimed to be defamatory comments being posted on the Facebook pages of these publishers. Voller was a central figure in the ABC Four Corners program of 2016 on the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin, with images of him being restrained in a chair helping to prompt a royal commission into his alleged mistreatment.
The court said in a statement following its decision to uphold a NSW Court of Appeal ruling in favour of Voller in 2020:
“…the liability of a person as a publisher depends upon whether that person, by facilitating and encouraging the relevant communication, ‘participated’ in the communication of the defamatory matter to a third person.
“The majority rejected the appellants’ argument that for a person to be a publisher they must know of the relevant defamatory matter and intend to convey it. “Each appellant, by the creation of a public Facebook page and the posting of content on that page, facilitated, encouraged and thereby assisted the publication of comments from third-party Facebook users.”
The decision means that a person running a Facebook page could be liable for defamatory comments made by others on the page. This doesn’t just include large media businesses but all page owners including community Facebook page owners. Media companies had argued that they weren’t responsible for comments posted by the public.
The ruling puts those on notice that want a presence on social media that they’re also responsible for moderating it.
It hasn’t been decided yet whether Voller has been defamed, but the ruling puts those on notice that want a presence on social media that they’re also responsible for moderating it.
Potential plaintiffs will now be able to pursue the owner of the Facebook account – the publisher – as well as, or instead of, the user making the comments.
The ABC in its reporting of the decision spoke to Chris Berkeley, the Facebook page administrator of the NSW country town of Canowindra’s What’s On Page, who wondered in light of the court decision whether it was all worth the effort and risk if some defamatory comments snuck through on his page. It’s a question many are now asking.
Many admins including those for a number of our MPs are now deleting the comments section to avoid the risk of liability. US media giant CNN has made the decision to prevent Australians from accessing its Facebook page as a result and has decided that an Australian presence is just not worth the risk.
Australian visitors to CNN’s Facebook page are greeted with this message denying entry
Government And Legal Response
Meanwhile, Australian defamation law reform is hoped to bring our defamation laws into the modern era, hopefully providing a balance between protecting reputations and enabling free speech.
A review into whether existing rules are appropriate for the internet age, and whether the rules fairly take into account whether or not a person has been harmed has been widely welcomed.
Australia’s politicians are also promising action with prime minister Scott Morrison promising to force tech companies to take more responsibility for content posted on their sites.
Mr Morrison said to his colleagues this week at a Coalition joint party room meeting, “The global tech giants know we will set the pace and lead the world in ensuring what happens in the digital world has the same responsibilities and same accountabilities that apply in the real world.
“We are going to do more because we are seeing lives destroyed.
“We are seeing people fall apart.
“We are seeing cowards triumph at the expense of good.”
Now that the dust has settled somewhat on the Australian Government’s stoush with principally Facebook and Google, what is the state of play of the highly charged News Media Bargaining Code?
In action which was closely watched around the world, the Australian Government’s code has now been brought in as law after passing through both houses of parliament.
Both Google and Facebook have been negotiating, and in many cases signing deals, with Australian publishers with Facebook being later to the party, and after sensationally dropping Australian news from its feed in what was seen as a tough protest and negotiating tactic. Facebook returned news for Australian users after getting some changes from the Australian Government following its dramatic decision to drop news.
Facebook had asserted that the value in the news chain for its platform was strongly in favour of news publishers, saying, “… last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million to the news industry.”
The code allows eligible Australian media organisations to bargain with Google and Facebook to secure fair payment for their news content. The code isn’t mandating how much should be paid, but rather providing a compulsory negotiating process in the absence of direct deals being struck.
A statement from Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the code “provides a framework for good faith negotiations between the parties and a fair and balanced arbitration process to resolve outstanding disputes.
“The Code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia.”
What deals are being done?
On the 15th March 2021, News Corp announced that it “… has reached a multi-year agreement to provide access to trusted news and information to millions of Facebook users in Australia through its Facebook News product.”
The agreement involves News Corp Australia and includes The Australian national newspaper, the news.com.au news site, major metropolitan mastheads like The Daily Telegraph in New South Wales, Herald Sun in Victoria and The Courier-Mail in Queensland and regional and community publications.
News Corp also said Sky News Australia has reached a new agreement with Facebook which extends and significantly builds on an existing arrangement. News Corp also has news payment deals with Google and Apple.
The News Corp agreement follows Facebook deals with Seven West Media, and private publishers Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media.
It is understood that Nine Entertainment Co also has signed a letter of intent with Facebook with an announcement expected soon.
Google has been far quicker to negotiate deals than Facebook. Google announced a deal worth A$30 million with Seven West Media in February for news content for its Google Showcase product.
Seven West Media managing director and chief executive officer, James Warburton, said: “Both agreements are a significant step forward for Australian news media and are a clear acknowledgement by all parties of the value and importance of original news content.”
Google also has announced deals with Guardian Australia and a $30 million deal with Nine.
Why is Facebook more reluctant to make deals?
Quite simply, competition. Google has more, especially in search, and Facebook as a giant social network has less, argues Peter Martin, visiting fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.
Facebook has said that only about four per cent of posts on the platform are works of journalism. As the pre-eminent social network, it really doesn’t have a significant competitor. Google’s service relies a lot more on news articles, and Microsoft has indicated it supports the legislation and would commit its Bing search service to remain in Australia “and that it is prepared to share revenue with news organizations under the rules that Google and Facebook are rejecting.”
One could also surmise that Google and Facebook could see that by doing the deals now it would save them much money, especially when under the code an independent arbitrator would determine the final value of a deal.
For now, a number of our publishers are getting some much needed additional revenue. It is not known, however, how much of this will be channelled back into journalism and newsrooms. The code does not mandate this.
Update 6 May 2021
Seven West Media has now signed agreements with both Google and Facebook which will see the two companies pay Seven to publish news from Seven. It has signed on for a three-year deal with Facebook and five years with Google.
Australian Community Media has signed a letter of intent with Facebook to provide news and information through Facebook News. The deal will involve over 40 ACM regional, rural and suburban mastheads and publications. Some of the publications include the Newcastle Herald, Bendigo Advertiser, Canberra Times, and the Illawarra Mercury.
Update – 2nd September, 2020 – Facebook has officially responded to the draft news media bargaining code by saying in an announcement, “…we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram.” Will Easton, managing director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand said that, “Most perplexing, it would force Facebook to pay news organisations for content that the publishers voluntarily place on our platforms and at a price that ignores the financial value we bring publishers.” Easton is referring to Facebook’s figures that in the first five months of 2020, they sent 2.3 billion clicks from their News Feed back to Australian news websites at no charge – additional traffic they worth an estimated $200 million AUD to Australian publishers. He says that the proposed “new regulation misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect.” Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg was steadfast in his response: “We’re committed to these reforms – we won’t be bullied, no matter how big the international company is, no matter how powerful they are, no matter how valuable they are.”
THE draft news media bargaining code has been released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in an attempt to force Facebook and Google to pay for the news content they publish on their platforms.
It’s a world first as far as legislating for the powerful tech platforms to compensate news publishers for their journalism.
The draft code, if adopted, will allow eligible Australian media organisations to bargain with Google and Facebook to secure fair payment for their news content. The code isn’t mandating how much should be paid, but rather providing a compulsory negotiating process.
If the news businesses and the digital platforms cannot strike a deal through a formal three-month negotiation and mediation process, then an independent arbitrator would choose which of the two parties’ final offer is the most reasonable within 45 business days.
This would ensure disagreements about payment for content are resolved quickly. Deals on payment could be reached within six months of the code coming into effect if arbitration is required.
The draft code would also allow groups of media businesses to collectively negotiate with the platforms. This could include, for example, regional and community mastheads.
“There is a fundamental bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and the major digital platforms, partly because news businesses have no option but to deal with the platforms, and have had little ability to negotiate over payment for their content or other issues,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“In developing our draft code, we observed and learned from the approaches of regulators and policymakers internationally that have sought to secure payment for news.”
“We wanted a model that would address this bargaining power imbalance and result in fair payment for content, which avoided unproductive and drawn-out negotiations, and wouldn’t reduce the availability of Australian news on Google and Facebook.”
“Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake with these changes.” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg
Regulators and governments have become increasingly concerned at the digital platforms’ market power and the slashing of revenues by legacy news outlets in the wake of this dominance.
In May, Nine chairman and former federal treasurer Peter Costello said that a code of conduct should force the companies to pay about $600 million a year to Australian media companies.
This estimate seems extremely optimistic for an expected payday, however, with expected blow-back from Google and Facebook.
Melanie Silva, managing director and VP, Google Australia & New Zealand said, “We’re concerned that the draft Code does not create incentives for both publishers and digital platforms to negotiate and innovate for a better future.
“The Code also discounts the already significant value Google provides to news publishers across the board – including sending billions of clicks to Australian news publishers for free every year worth $218 million.”
Facebook Australia said it was examining the proposed legislation before it would publicly comment.
“We are reviewing the government’s proposal to understand the impact it will have on the industry, our services and our investment in the news ecosystem in Australia,” Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director Will Easton said.
In its response to the code concepts paper in June, Facebook outlined some of the benefits it says it provides to news publishers in Australia:
“Facebook’s commitment to sensible regulatory frameworks for digital news is in line with the significant support we provide to the Australian news ecosystem. Our support for publishers comprises: free organic distribution of news on our platforms that grows the audience for news publishers; customised tools and products to help news publishers monetise their content; initiatives to assist publishers to innovate with online news content; direct investments by commissioning Australian news content that can appear on online services, including Facebook; and the indirect value to publishers such as brand awareness and community-building.”
Australian News Media Rejoice
Michael Miller, News Corp Australia executive chairman said, “While other countries are talking about the tech giants’ unfair and damaging behaviour, the Australian Government and the ACCC are taking world-first action. I congratulate them for their leadership.
“The tech platforms’ days of free-riding on other peoples’ content are ending. They derive immense benefit from using news content created by others and it is time for them to stop denying this fundamental truth.
“The ACCC’s draft Code of Conduct is a watershed moment; it can force the platforms to play by the same rules other companies willingly follow and it ultimately means they will no longer be able to use their power to walk away from negotiations with news creators.
“This code has the potential to benefit all Australians by securing the future for the people and companies who serve real communities with real news.
“I look forward to entering into negotiations with the platforms as soon as possible.”
The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance has welcomed the draft bargaining code. It claims it is an overdue step to force Google and Facebook to compensate media organisations for content they have been using for free.
“For nearly two decades Google and Facebook have built enormous fortunes off the back of aggregating content that others have made and others have paid for,” said MEAA Media president Marcus Strom.
“It is a business model that has literally destroyed newsrooms around the world.
“It is time that free lunch comes to an end.”
Some other outcomes in the draft code include:
Minimum standards on non-payment related issues – for example, digital platforms would be required to give news media businesses 28 days’ notice of algorithm changes likely to materially affect referral traffic to news, algorithm changes designed to affect ranking of news behind paywalls, and substantial changes to the display and presentation of news, and advertising directly associated with news.
Clear information must be given to publishers about what sort of data is being collected including how long users spend on an article, number of articles consumed, and other engagement information.
The platforms would also be required to publish proposals for how they would recognise original news content on their services.
The ability for any news media business to prevent their news content being included on any individual digital platform.
The ABC and SBS are excluded from the remuneration process, as the government has said that advertising revenue is not the principal source of funding for public broadcasters. Anti-discrimination provisions are expected to prevent Google and Facebook from prioritising publicly-funded news to take advantage of this.
Google has previously firmly resisted paying for news, though it has said it will launch a licensing program to pay publishers for high-quality content for a new news experience launching later this year, with signed partnerships with local and national publications in Germany, Australia and Brazil.
The eyes of the publishing world will be on Australia as this mandatory code unfolds and is implemented, especially how Facebook and Google react, and if other platforms are subsequently included by the Australian government.
There are also claims about ameliorating user insecurity when posting, perceived liberty of expression, and circumventing the herd mentality.
But are there any scientific grounds for this change?
The MusicLab model
In 2006, US researchers Matthew Salganik, Peter Dodds and Duncan Watts set out to investigate the intriguing disconnect between quality and popularity observed in cultural markets.
They created the MusicLab experiments, in which users were presented with a choice of songs from unknown bands. Users would listen online and could choose to download songs they liked.
The users were divided into two groups: for one group, the songs were shown at random with no other information; for the other group, songs were ordered according to a social signal – the number of times each had already been downloaded – and this number was shown next to them.
A song’s number of downloads is a measure of its popularity, akin to the number of likes for Facebook posts.
The results were fascinating: when the number of downloads was shown, the song market would evolve to be highly unequal (with one song becoming vastly more popular than all the others) and unpredictable (the winning song would not be the same if the experiment were repeated).
Based on these results, Australian researchers proposed the first model (dubbed the MusicLab model) to explain how content becomes popular in cultural markets, why a few things get all the popularity and most get nothing, and (most important for us) why showing the number of downloads is so detrimental.
They theorised that the consumption of an online product (such as a song) is a two-step process: first the user clicks on it based on its appeal, then they download it based on its quality.
As it turns out, a song’s appeal is largely determined by its current popularity.
If other people like something, we tend to think it’s worth taking a look at.
So how often a song will be downloaded in future depends on its current appeal, which in turn depends on its current number of downloads.
This leads to the well-known result that future popularity of a product or idea is highly dependent on its past popularity. This is also known as the “rich get richer” effect.
What does this have to do with Facebook likes?
The parallel between Facebook and the MusicLab experiment is straightforward: the songs correspond to posts, whereas downloads correspond to likes.
For a market of products such as songs, the MusicLab model implies that showing popularity means fewer cultural products of varying quality are consumed overall, and some high-quality products may go unnoticed.
But the effects are even more severe for a market of ideas, such as Facebook.
The “rich get richer” effect compounds over time like interest on a mortgage.
The total popularity of one idea can increase exponentially and quickly dominate the entire market.
As a result, the first idea on the market has more time to grow and has increased chances of dominating regardless of its quality (a strong first-mover advantage).
This first-mover advantage partially explains why fake news items so often dominate their debunking, and why it is so hard to replace wrong and detrimental beliefs with correct or healthier alternatives that arrive later in the game.
Despite what is sometimes claimed, the “marketplace of ideas” is no guarantee that high-quality content will become popular.
Other lines of research suggest that while quality ideas do make it to the top, it is next to impossible to predict early which ones. In other words, quality appears disconnected from popularity.
Is there any way the game can be fixed?
This seems to paint a bleak picture of online society, in which misinformation, populist ideas, and unhealthy teen challenges can freely flow through online media and capture the public’s attention.
However, the other group in the MusicLab experiment – the group who were not shown a popularity indicator – can give us hope for a solution, or at least some improvement.
The researchers reported that hiding the number of downloads led to a much fairer and more predictable market, in which popularity is more evenly distributed among a greater number of competitors and more closely correlated to quality.
So it appears that Facebook’s decision to hide the number of likes on posts could be better for everyone.
In addition to limiting pressure on post creators and reducing their levels of anxiety and envy, it might also help to create a fairer information exchange environment.
And if posters spend less time on optimising post timing and other tricks for gaming the system, we might even notice an increase in content quality.
Facebook has announced changes to its news feed flagged last year which will have the effect of prioritising posts from friends and video content over posts from media outlets and businesses.
For news outlets and pages this will change the likelihood of their posts appearing in your news feed.
Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s head of News Feed wrote in a post that Facebook was built to bring people closer together and build relationships
He wrote: “With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to – whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion. We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content…”
“Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”
You can read Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement here in full:
So, what types of Page posts will show higher in News Feed?
According to Mosseri page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.
If you still want to see all content from a favourite page or business, you will still be able to; you’ll need to change the appropriate preference setting to see posts from your favourite pages.
This change is a sure-fire reminder that Facebook is there to make money and not just to give a business or publisher a free platform to promote itself and drive traffic. Organic reach will continue to decline for them and necessitate a rethink on the sort of content they provide and the level of sponsorship they will need or future posts.
If you’re a brand and can generate engagement, discussion and sharing then you may still be able to generate organic reach. However, all brands will need to rethink their content marketing strategies and decide how important Facebook is to their marketing programs.
Facebook has introduced these sorts of changes before and now it’s up to users and advertisers to react and respond.
Hopefully one meaningful change to news feed will be the penalising of publishers who seem to thrive on clickbait-type articles and headlines. We’re looking at you, Fox Sports!
Another year is underway and nothing’s more certain than the changing social media landscape. It’s important to keep updated with relevant changes to your social media accounts and initiatives.
Here’s a wrap of a few recent changes and trends which may impact your social media strategy:
News Feed Update Now Responding To Surveys
Facebook continues to tinker with its News Feed as it tries to improve the experience and show more relevant stories. This will of course assist with targeted marketing activities.
Facebook has traditionally used technology to hone the News Feed, tailoring the experience based on your likes, clicks, comments and shared posts. Facebook of course recognises that technology is not perfect in assessing your varied interests. It is now using qualitative research to have users rate their experience and assess posts in their feed. By surveying users and asking the question “how much did you want to see this story in your News Feed?”, Facebook is gaining a better understanding of what people are interested in seeing regardless of whether they interact with the post.
According to Facebook people are having a better News Feed experience when the stories they see at the top are stories they are both likely to rate highly and and likely to engage with.
Facebook is making an update to News Feed to incorporate this likelihood based on their research.
These changes will have a varying degree of impact depending upon the composition of your audience and posting activity. Facebook says that in general this update should not impact reach or referral traffic meaningfully for the majority of Pages.
Overall you should continue to post content that your audience finds meaningful and interesting.
Facebook provides some good information on News Feed Best Practices and also Page post best practices. Review these regularly and track the effectiveness of your posts to give you greater insight into your most valued content and best posting habits.
Facebook Sports Stadium
Facebook is clamouring to get a slice of the real-time chatter which goes on during big events, particularly big sporting match-ups.
Photo by Donald Miralle for Sports Illustrated
This has long been the domain for Twitter where people can instantly share news, scores, opinions and generally vent about the last score. Twitter registered 28 million tweets for Superbowl 49 – up from 24 million the previous year and is favoured because of its immediacy.
Facebook has responded by launching Facebook Sports Stadium aimed at their 650 million followers who like sports. It’s a place where you can see:
-posts from your friends and their comments on the game
-expert commentary and posts from those who cover the game and access to their Pages
-live scores and stats
-other game information like TV schedules.
Currently available for American football games it will soon cover other sports around the world. We’re bound to see it in Australia soon.
It apparently struggled to keep up though with traffic during the recent Superbowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers and was a number of minutes behind with the scores.
It took 7 mins for Facebook Sports Stadium to update the score with the Panthers’ touchdown. Early days but Twitter is still winning. #sb50
Facebook will persevere and it will be hard to bet against them making an impact during these live events. Soccer and the Olympics will surely be a huge worldwide draw card.
Instagram Multiple Accounts One eagerly awaited Instagram feature, which has been a long time coming, is the ability to run multiple accounts on Instagram. Up to now, you had to log off Instagram and log in under another account if you were, for example, using a private account and also managing a corporate account.
Twitter and Facebook has had this capability for a while and finally it has come to iOS and Android in the latest Instagram version, 7.15.
You now have the ability to add up to five accounts and you will be able to see which account you have active from several points in the app.
This will be a huge time saver.
Podcasts are poised to become one of the fastest growing mediums for individuals and brands wishing to reach new audiences according to smk (social media knowledge).
Podcasts have been around for some time and were first mentioned back in 2004. The rise of smartphones and tablets has certainly boosted their popularity.
smk identifies a defining moment in the rise of Podcast being when ongoing true story Serial became the first to pass five million downloads in 2014.
Podcasts are great to consume whilst you’re on the move with most listeners loving to learn about new things.
Some of the most popular Podcasts in Australia currently include: