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Facebook bans news: What it means for real estate

Written by Grace Ormsby of REB

February 18th, 2021

Facebook’s decision to restrict the posting of news links and news page posts on its platform has had huge — and in some ways unexpected — knock-on effects on the real estate industry.

From this morning, 18 February 2021, Facebook began blocking posts from Australian and international news pages for Australian audiences and links to Australian news sources.

This is set to impact the 14 million Australians who Facebook says “connect” on Facebook every day.

It also prevents Australians from accessing news through Facebook from international news organisations.

According to Facebook, its decision to ban the sharing of news is in response to the Australian government’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code legislation.

“This is not the outcome we wanted and it’s a step we take reluctantly,” a statement from Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton said.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content.”

While Google has previously flagged that it would consider pulling its search function from Australia, Facebook emphasised that platforms have “fundamentally different relationships with news”.

“Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content.

On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue,” it argued.

The fallout from this Facebook decision has reportedly seen real estate agencies and agents also affected by the ban, with listings platforms and Domain having been classed as “news” providers, and therefore links from their sites — and consequently, listings — unable to be pushed out.

Like many other organisations, their Facebook pages have been wiped — simply saying “No posts yet”.

A Domain spokesperson has since commented on the issue, stating: "This is an evolving situation which we are watching very closely."

They said that in response to the changes delivered by Facebook, the company immediately reviewed its digital activity on Facebook, and "can confirm that we have been impacted in our ability to publish to our Facebook pages".

"Our priority right now is to monitor and take appropriate action to ensure we can continue to deliver on the communication and advertising needs of our consumers and clients."

"Unfortunately, Facebook has taken this position without prior notice, and with limited customer support," the statement continued, expressing that Domain is in active discussions with Facebook directly and through its major shareholder - Nine.

"We are hopeful that a resolution will be found quickly that is mutually beneficial to both parties," the spokesperson concluded.

According to the CEO of Bespoke Media Group, Nic Fren, a number of real estate agents have already been affected — and have found themselves unable to post listings housed on platforms, inclusive of Domain and through Facebook.

Conceding that he had even tried a few of them himself without success, Mr Fren said “the important thing is not to have a knee-jerk reaction”.

“It’s an inconvenience, but it’s not the end of the world.”

He’s also advised that with the upcoming legislation, it may not be the only social media change that agents have to grapple with.

“With Facebook owning Instagram, who knows the direction they will take with that platform and if other sites such as LinkedIn will follow suit,” he considered.

We understand it will also impact the real estate industry’s ability to disseminate its own news and information to interested parties.

Responding to a question from Momentum Media, REB’s parent company, about the “broad-brush” approach taken by Facebook as to what constitutes news, a company spokesperson for Facebook said the following: “As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted.

“Government Pages should not be impacted by today’s announcement.

The actions we’re taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.

“However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted.”

According to Mr Fren, the action from Facebook serves as a warning to agents against putting all their eggs in the one basket.

“REA had over 662,000 followers and is now cancelled,” he said.

“Don’t put all your focus in the one platform,” he continued, advising it as “vital to build a profile on all sites in case of events like these”.

“With the sharing capabilities stripped from the major portals, I urge business owners to reassess their websites and put the time into them to become the go-to for information.”


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