Facebook has reiterated a previous threat to get rid of news for Australian users, this time reminding Australian politicians that news is a “very small” proportion of the content that they show to users.
As part of the inquiry into the Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020, Facebook’s APAC president for public policy Simon Milner and the Australian head of public policy Josh Machin both appeared in front of the Senate committee on Economics to talk about the proposed law.
Following a mostly hostile appearance by Google, the Facebook hearing had a slightly more muted but still tense vibe.
Just prior, Google Australia New Zealand’s managing director Mel Silva had threatened that the company would restrict Australians from using their search engine if the news media bargaining code went through.
Facebook didn’t quite go that far — much to the relief of Labor senator Alex Gallacher who commented that his wife would be pleased to hear that news — but the company’s representatives did say that they would be forced to nerf parts of their product if the code went through.
News, according to the representatives, would be gone if the code goes through. Publishers would no longer be able to share news links on the platform, and users wouldn’t be able to post it either.
Beyond that, much of the hearing focused on what the value of news and misinformation was to Facebook, and how the platform would deal with them without news.
Milner confirmed previous statements from the company that news counts for very little of the content shown to users, specifically “5%”.
When asked about the value of fake news and misinformation, Milner said it doesn’t provide “any commercial value”.
Coalition Senator Andrew Bragg’s line of questioning seized upon this to ask how the platform could combat fake news without real, credible news. But Machin parried, arguing that their third-party fact checkers and government resources were enough.