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Student media hit by Facebook news ban in Australia

All student and independent media have been affected by the ban alongside big media outlets.

All posts on the Facebook pages of student media across Australia were blocked this morning as a result of Facebook’s decision to ban Australian users from sharing or viewing news content

Impacted University of Sydney publications include Honi Soit, Pulp, and SURG FM, which have had their entire pages restricted. The University of Sydney Conservative Club, which publishes the Sydney Tory, remains active, with only article posts being removed.

The move comes after the Federal Government’s proposed media code was passed in the House of Representatives last night, which would force tech giants like Google and Facebook to pay major Australian news outlets for their content. 

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content” read the official blog post by Facebook

“It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia.”

Despite the draft media code applying only to news outlets which receive annual revenue over $150,000, all student and independent media have been affected by the ban alongside big media outlets. 

This will be particularly detrimental as most student media in the past few decades has been either reducing print editions to focus on online content, or relying solely on online platforms.

Facebook comprised a significant portion of Honi’s readership, reaching more than 20,000 users weekly. Honi’s use of the platform has been instrumental in informing the public about USyd management’s cuts to staff and incidents of police violence at student protests last year.

“Facebook’s response to the News Media Bargaining Code disproportionately affects small publishers, like Tharunka and Honi, and effectively censors some of the biggest platforms available to young, multicultural writers,” said Katherine Wong, Managing Editor of Tharunka (UNSW).

“As for our readers, this ban severs our connection with the student community and prevents us from publishing articles that challenge readers, the university administration, or broader institutions.”

Rachel Chopping, Editor-in-Chief of Woroni (ANU) told Honi that “A ban on content created and curated by students is also a ban on some of Australia’s best emerging diverse writers, artists and editors.” 

Student publications which don’t fit the traditional news genre, such as Vertigo Magazine (UTS) and Demos Journal (ANU), were also impacted.

“[We were] shocked and disappointed to find that our Facebook page had been banned,” Angela Jin told Honi on behalf of the Vertigo (UTS) editorial team. 

“We are primarily a creative outlet showcasing student work and art. We do not consider ourselves to be a news outlet as it is difficult for us to report time-sensitive, relevant news given that we only publish six times a year.”

“We implore people to engage and support news outlets, especially local, through their websites and apps.”

Beyond student media, the Sydney Evangelical Union’s Facebook page, which was not used to share articles, has also been blocked.

Honi will continue to be active on its website, Twitter and Instagram platforms. Stay updated with our weekly print newspapers which are distributed across campus and can be found in an online format here.

This article was updated on 19 February 2021 at 2:00pm.