This week on The Wrap, it’s all about Facebook as the social media giant cuts off Australia’s news, and then some. What happened, and what does it mean for you? Plus how has Telstra changed scams in Australia? And what’s the one way to always tell an email scam? All that in five.
Near the end of February, this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and one that you might be needing just a little more this week, now that it’s a little more difficult to get your news from one of the world’s biggest social media platforms in Australia.
Yep, we’re diving straight into this one, because it’s a topic that needs a serious discussion, as Facebook cuts off news in Australia, with some pretty devastating consequences.
Ever since the government started talking about its media code, Google and Facebook have been in the crosshairs, with a push to try and get both the search engine and social network to negotiations with media companies.
It’s a big push by the government to try and secure money from both Google and Facebook for journalism — that’s the official reasoning — and while there are some pretty severe flaws in the media code, including some very strange ideas about how search works, it had seemed like Google and the media companies were making progress. This week, Google signed deals with News Corp, Seven West, and Junkee Media, and we’re sure others are on the way.
But not over at team Facebook, which appears to have another approach in mind.
You see while Google had suggested it might turn off search in Australia, an idea that sounded a lot like a bluff given how Google search can be found in the likes of Android and its smart devices, to name a few things, and not even including its huge ad revenue in Australia, Facebook had said it would be forced to turn off news sharing locally.
And this week, it did.
Facebook flipped a poorly made switch and turned off news sharing for local publishers, plus made it impossible for Australian Facebook users to share international news with it.
It’s a little crazy, and basically means no Australian on Facebook can share news, be it local or from the world, and no one outside of Australia can see news from Australian publishers, though it initially went beyond that.
NASA, the Bureau of Meteorology, and a whole lot more were initially affected, partly because the idea of what news is from the government means anything reporting on “current issues or events of public significance for Australians”. It was more of a janky rollout, and Facebook later restored some of the pages, but the fact remained: rather than wait for the code, Facebook hit the nuclear option, and took away the ability to share news.
It’s a bizarre situation to be in, and means right now, Facebook users can’t share news, with news organisations big and small affected, in a move that hardly plays into Facebook’s hands.
While we’re sure the social media giant could argue its hands were tied with the government’s code, doing this without warning and doing this in such a poorly implemented way feels like a reversal of a position — that Facebook doesn’t want to talk, and that it just demands things stay the same, or else — well it just seems like a bad move.
For now, it means if you want news, you’ll have to leave the confines of “the social network”, and head back to the websites, the apps, and bizarrely — and perhaps ironically — the Google News and Apple News links to read your stories. All while Facebook becomes a news less feed of cats and friends and family and food.
Fortunately, the big Facebook news wasn’t the only thing of importance this week, though it was clearly a big one.
You can’t get your news from Facebook right now, but you can at every other site. And at least you might be getting a few less scams.
This week, Telstra rolled out a technology over its phone and text network, and over the network it shares with virtual operators like Boost, Belong, and Mate, and means that scam calls and scam texts may be less common thanks to some software smarts that actively block phone and text scams before you get them.
It’s a big deal because we’re seeing scams arrive in big numbers, which is hardly surprising. According to the ACCC, scams are a multimillion dollar business, with hundreds of millions of dollars lost to scams every year.
But recently, we’ve seen email scammers getting a little smarter, and now might be harder to spot because they appear to have finally bought a dictionary. The most recent PayPal scam we checked out was written almost perfectly, but still had one way to work it out, with a dodgy send address, which will always be the way to work out if something is a scam. Check the send address, because scammers can’t fake a real one, and that’s often your big indicator to what’s a scam and what’s not.
In the meantime, we think Telstra’s move is a good one because it means scams can be limited at the services level, but you’ll still need to keep your wits about you, and keep your education up, because there’ll be plenty of other ways scammers can attack, and they’re not just going to stop.
And in the light of Facebook being Facebook, it means scammers may go back to social engineering and social media scams, because without being able to share news or tips from tech sites, people might not see the signs quite so obviously, or learn the tips they need.
For now, you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. You can learn about this episode and more, not at Facebook, but at thewrap.com.au. A new episode can be found every week at Listnr, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, but for now, have a great week. Stay safe, stay sane, and take care.