Senator Xenophon hits out at Facebook

23 August 2017

Written by: Jordyn Hoekstra

Is Facebook "damaging the integrity of news"? Nick Xenophon thinks so.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has suggested that Facebook is having a negative effect on Australian journalism, accusing it of “damaging the integrity of news”.

This comes after Senator Xenophon questioned Facebook staff over its use of content from news sites, claiming that the social media site is not moving fast enough when it comes to eliminating ‘fake news’ from its server.

‘Fake news’ refers to any story that may be damaging to an agency, entity, or person, with the intention of misleading or creating a false agenda.

The Guardian reported that Facebook Australia’s head of policy, Mia Garlick had responded to Senator Xenophon. She says Facebook was tackling fake news by removing accounts based on their “behaviour”, rather than their content. However, she believes it is up to Facebook users to report ‘fake news’ when they come across it.

She could not say how many pages Facebook had removed or shut down for breaching its guidelines.

Ms Garlick claimed that as Facebook did not employ journalists, $1million was being paid out to publishers daily to publish content.

Facebook’s journalism partnerships spokesperson Aine Kerr said that this money is given to 10,000 publishers worldwide through a program called “instant articles.”

“With instant articles, if publishers choose to use that to distribute their content they keep 100 per cent of their revenue,” she says.

Senator Xenophon hit back saying this wasn’t sustainable with many journalism jobs being cut in Australia.

In December last year, Facebook trialled a pilot program to help prevent the spread of ‘fake news’, which was carried out across the United States and parts of Europe.

Senator Xenophon questioned why this hasn’t reached the rest of the world, “… here you are taking a very conservative, cautious approach which is damaging the integrity of news.”

Ms Kerr has defended these current practices and claims that the pilot program will commence in Australia later this year.