No news on Facebook in Australia. How bad is that really? A communication science perspective. 🧵

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Background: Last Thursday Facebook walked away from the negotiating table regarding payment for news content and started blocking all news content in Australia. theguardian.com/australia-news…
What are the consequences? In the short term they are pretty serious. In Australia 39% of the population use Facebook for news at least some of the time. img.datawrapper.de/GIBEG/full.png via @risj_oxford
It’s a source of information that supplies many citizens with news on they would be missing out otherwise. journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.11…
But the ban does not only affect news sites. Facebook also blocked governmental information sites, including health information.
As more and more governmental and political actors have become reliant on platforms to disseminate crucial information, this shows how dependent we have become on platforms to organize public life – and that this dependency can be used against us. parool.nl/nederland/prem…
In particular in times of crisis like during a natural disaster or terrorist attack platforms are the place we turn to figure out whether our loved ones are safe, where to go to find help, and how to behave appropriately.
However, in the long term, it might be a blessing in disguise. See, I wonder whether social media ever were as important for the dissemination of news as they are made out to be. We found that as little as 4% of the newsfeed is about current information. cvdm.nl/sites/default/…
And there is a lot of variance around that number. For everybody who has a feed full of news there is another person who does not get any news at all. This is a direct consequence of algorithms that have profiled users on their political interest. ,
This matters, because we think on social media we are reaching hard-to-reach audience with info. But the opposite is the case. Research shows that getting news from social media only leads to the perception of being informed – even if we are not. tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.10…
So many people were not getting news and information on Facebook even before the ban, they just did not realize it. The difference is: now they know. And are looking for information elsewhere.
Having said that, whether or not FB without news ends up being a good thing depends on what would come in its place. Will news organizations be able to come up with better algorithms and ways of dissemination that can overcome the knowledge gap online? Or will it get even worse?
I guess we will all find out together.

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