Peripheral information sources such as emergency services, charities, government health departments and weather warnings have also been caught up in the ban.
The stark move, a response to a proposed media bargaining code which looks to force Facebook to pay for original news, has dramatic implications for the way people use social media.
What does it mean for you, the user? Here’s what we know so far:
Let’s get up to speed. What has Facebook done?
Facebook has banned all Australian and international news – and pages that appear to be news – from appearing on the timelines of Australian users.
If you go to a publisher’s Facebook page, such as 9news.com.au, it will display a message saying “no posts yet”.
Why has Facebook done this?
Facebook has done this in response to a proposed media bargaining code the federal government was progressing towards legislating.
Under the code, Facebook would have to pay publishers to feature their original news content.
If there was no agreement on a fair amount to be paid, it would then go to arbitration.
In an open letter, Facebook Australia & New Zealand’s Managing Director William Easton claims the law “misunderstands” how Facebook works.
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” Mr Easton wrote.
“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.
“With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”
Can Facebook do this? Can’t the government force them to open it back up?
Yes, Facebook can do this.
It is a corporation publicly listed on the Nasdaq, which only has to answer to its shareholders.
The Australian Government cannot force them to do anything.
But, given the enormous use of Facebook across Australian communities, it is hoped some form of mediation can undo the ban.
It is the choice of Australian users whether they wish to leave the platform altogether if they do not agree to its terms of service.
What does this mean for me? Can I still log onto Facebook?
You can. Your personal Facebook profile remains unaffected.
What this means for you however, is that your timeline will look dramatically different.
News stories about and from your local area will not appear in your timeline.
At the moment, updates from some emergency services will not appear and you will not get posts from the Bureau of Meterology about weather warnings in your local area.
However it is unclear if this is a permanent ‘ban’ or these organisations have been inadvertently caught up in Facebook’s move to block news content.
In a statement Facebook said:
“The actions we’re taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content. 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. However, we will reverse any pages that are inadvertently impacted.”
For many, though, it will fundamentally change how they receive news.
All that will appear will be posts from your friends, posts from pages deemed not to be news, and posts from groups that you are a member of.
So what does Nine say about it all?
“It is unfortunate Facebook have taken this position and it will indeed inhibit us from sharing our quality news and information with Australians,” a Nine spokesperson said.
“Nobody benefits from this decision as Facebook will now be a platform for misinformation to rapidly spread without balance. This action proves again their monopoly position and unreasonable behaviour.
“But today’s statement does not mean Facebook will not have to abide by the Federal Governments proposed code. Value has already been transferred and Facebook has benefited from our content for many years. We should be able to access their monopoly platform and have the right to monetise our content as a result.
“We have been negotiating with Facebook in good faith and we remain willing to do a deal with them that provides a mutually beneficial outcome and ensures quality information is available to all Australians on their platform.”
So how can I access news from Australia and abroad?
What non-news organisations have been caught up in Facebook’s news ban?
Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA
Victorian Council of Social Services
Sacred Heart Mission in Melbourne
Council to Homeless Persons
Womens’ Legal Service NSW
Victoria Opposition leader Michael O’Brien
WA Opposition Leader MP Zak Kirkup
UK football teams including Manchester United, Celtic and Chelsea
Is there some kind of workaround?
Facebook has taken the extraordinary step of stopping international users from viewing or sharing Australian news content.
So even if you did a sneaky VPN change to make your computer appear as though it were in Canada, you’d still be blocked.
What’s next? How can all of this be fixed?
It’s impossible to predict the future, but the conceivable next action is some kind of mediation between the Australian Government and Facebook.
Facebook has drawn a line in the sand. The government can retreat from their position, soften the deal, or decide to continue with an Aussie Facebook that is devoid of news.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tweeted that he had spoken to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
“He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward.”