Facebook loses out on $24m ad revenue amid news ban


The Federal Government will divert some of its planned $24 million COVID-19 vaccination advertising spend away from Facebook, as the Senate begins debating the proposed news media bargaining code.

With Facebook still blocking Australian news on its platform, the Government pushed ahead with legislation which would require the tech giants to pay media outlets for the content they use, with proposed laws for a news media bargaining code being tabled in the Senate.

Debate is due to start late on Monday night, with Labor broadly supportive of the code.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says Facebook should be putting people over profits. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Health Minister Greg Hunt says Facebook should be putting people over profits. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Mr Hunt urged Facebook to consider its "higher duties,'' as the social media platform quietly began restoring the pages of charities and health organisations which were taken off line last Thursday when the company banned the posting or sharing of news.

"They should be putting people over profits,'' Mr Hunt said.

"If they profess to be an organisation that is concerned about community, concerned about their social responsibility, if they're concerned about being a social network, not a corporate titan, perhaps they should just allow the coverage to occur.''

Facebook has been widely condemned for its decision, which has allowed disinformation and fake news to spread, while blocking legitimate news coverage from a range of media companies including News Corp Australia, the Nine Entertainment Co, the ABC and the Seven Group as well as numerous small media outlets.


While Google has struck a deal with media companies to pay for the content it uses, Facebook is holding out, apparently concerned about the global ramifications of such an arrangement, which will allow for heavy fines to be levied against tech giants which refuse to pay for the media content they use.

Mr Hunt said the $24 million advertising spend for advertising to alert people to the COVID-19 vaccination rollout would go ahead, but would not be spent on "boosting'' or elevating posts on Facebook.

"All our funds will be used. Some may be reallocated temporarily, but there are multiple channels; television, radio, newspapers, multiple forms of online advertising,'' Mr Hunt said.

"We'll continue to post on that particular channel (Facebook), we just won't be boosting, and there may be some tail(ing off) in terms of things which were already in train.

"But the simple answer here is there are multiple channels, and you're all playing your part in getting your message to Australians.''

Labor's communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said Facebook's decision to block news had "shone a light on the potential for misinformation to proliferate on the internet.''

She told Sky News this was a serious concern at a time when it was important for people to feel comfortable coming forward and being vaccinated.

She said anti-vaxxers were highly active even before the news block instigated by Facebook.

"There were some arguments that this could make Facebook a less compelling platform because it could be proliferated by fake news rather than official sources,'' she said.

"Some analysis in the past couple of days has indicated that has come to fruition, so it's deeply concerning. All public policy makers want to make sure that Australians have confidence in the vaccination process and ignore the misinformation.''

Ms Rowland said she supported the Government's decision not to advertise on Facebook.

Originally published as Facebook loses out on $24m ad revenue amid news ban