The “We’re back on Facebook” Editorial

Words by Stasi Kapetanos

You may have heard by now that all Australian news outlets on Facebook had their banned overturned, which includes us too. This ban, which should have been intended for commercial news, also included many not for profit publications that report on the news cycle for the sectional interest of a constituency (in our case, you guys) as well as for the good of the public at-large. Facebook had even gone so far as to ban SA Health, which was, thank God, reversed soon after. Obviously, we were livid about all this. We have put a lot of work, sweat, and even tears into the work we do here. In this regard, we are not alone. On Dit has existed for almost a century now, and in that time, countless people have dedicated days and nights for this publication, many of whom subsequently have gone on to make a name for themselves. This includes past editors Nick Xenophon, Clementine Ford, David Pentherby, John Bannon, as well as past contributor and the first and so far only ever female Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard.

Despite this temporary kick in the teeth by Zuckerberg, On Dit will continue to publish with our never ending supply of elbow grease, midnight oil and classic student gusto. Even if we had really permanently lost the social media interactivity that Facebook gives us, we still have Twitter, Instagram and Medium to keep you all up-to-date with the latest news, to see the cool stuff we’ve put together and read everything we’ve written. You can also see every edition online at Issuu (where you can soon catch issue one).

Facebook is far from alone in causing Australian independent, public and community media grief here however. Their whole stunt was in response to the Morrison Liberal government’s move to force social media and search engines to pay big media corporations for their news content as part of the News Media Bargaining Code. This, of course should be seen as a rent-seeking cronyistic move on behalf of a state captured by vested special interests, loyally serving corporations that pay them with good coverage and political support. Simply put: you scratch my back if I force Facebook to pay you to do it. Far from merely seeking coin off Facebook and Google, large media conglomerates lobbied the government for this rule in order to get the Internet giants to write more favourable agreements with them while leaving smaller publications like Independent Australia or Adelaide’s very own InDaily, as well as the regional press and community interest publications like your average union, cultural and even religious media scrounging for scraps at the bottom of the algorithms.

Another piece of obvious malarky out of this, is the laughable way in which the government got a little too big for their boots but too small for their thinking caps. Media organisations interact with and post on Facebook and Google because it is useful to them (this includes us) not the other way around, and why on earth should we make money out of that? Moreover, the government has correctly identified that social media makes money off of us Australians and should maybe pay for it, but instead of trying to give it back to ordinary Australians directly, they’re sending it to the Murdochs of the world in a blatant affront to free-market principles but perfectly in-line with the praxis of neoliberalism. As mad as we were at Facebook and its rampaging regime of censorship at least it hit the big and little guys alike. It was the lesser-evil reaction to the dangerous media bargaining code compared to the disgrace of Google paying News Corp, Nine Fairfax and the other crony capitalist titans for hits while everyone else eats dust.

Although we are grateful to Facebook for ending their ban on us, we hope that they find it in their hearts and minds not to prioritise big media corporations over smaller players and independent voices like us. We also wish Google would scrap their deals with our country’s media moguls as they are not entitled to protection over everyone else. If anything, search engines should tip their results the other way around as even the radicals and revolutionaries who write for the little ol’ Red Flag are more socially responsible than the corporate ghouls who go around lying about coronavirus on Sky News after dark.