Meta Banning News On Instagram Will Disproportionately Impact Young Women

If Meta bans the news on Instagram, young Australian women have the most to lose.
How will meta banning the news impact young women?Getty

If Meta bans the news on Instagram, young Australian women have the most to lose.

Research from the University of Canberra has shown that young women in Australia are increasingly turning to social media for news—and for 27% of young women, it is their only source of news.

In a year where half the people in the world are going to elections (which could potentially include Australia), and where some countries like the US are becoming reproductive rights battlegrounds, never has it been more important for the news on social media to be fact checked, by journalists.

The impact of a news ban could be disastrous.

What’s happening with Meta?

ICYMI: The parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Meta, has announced that it will stop paying Australian publishers for news, and has also shut down its news tab (a dedicated tab for news in the bookmarks section of Facebook) in Australia and the United States.

Meta had previously paid news publishers for content displayed on Meta platforms. (Note: Like other smaller independent news publishers, my news startup Missing Perspectives has never received any funding from Meta).

The Albanese government has previously indicated that it wants Meta to continue paying news publishers – with previous deals said to be worth an estimated $200M.

“We’re not talking about some plucky little startup, we’re talking about one of the world’s largest and most profitable companies,” Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said.

“It has a responsibility to ensure that it pays for the content that … has been used on its platform, and frankly, that it’s making millions and millions of dollars out of it and so the government is adamant it will be backing the code we’ll be taking all of the actions that are available to us under the code.”

The previous publishing deals were paid by Meta, along with Google, to avoid being “designated” under the News Media Bargaining Code, which would force digital platforms like Meta to negotiate with news publishers for the use of news content on its platforms.

If Meta is indeed designated, it is expected by many in the news industry that Meta will ban the news from Facebook and Instagram here in Australia. This has already happened in Canada, where Facebook and Instagram users are unable to view or share news content.

If it happens here in Australia, it will have devastating consequences—particularly for young women. 

Meta banning news.

So, how will a ban impact young women?

Research from November 2023 conducted by the University of Canberra found that women are increasingly turning to social media for news.

“These gaps in news consumption suggest that mainstream news may not be providing what women want,” says Dr Jee Young Lee, one of the lead authors of the report. “This may be due to a lack of relevance and poor representation of issues women care about.”

The research found that amongst women who consume news, half use social media as a source for news.

This is higher for younger women: 59% of Gen Z women in Australia use social media to get news, which is 12% higher than the global average for this cohort (47%). Gen Z men in Australia are much less likely to use social media for news (27%).

This gender gap is even wider for those who say social media is their main source of news; 27% of women and 16% of men use social media as their main source of news content.

When exploring how a Meta news ban will impact young women, it’s important to understand the news consumption habits of young people. Dr Sora Park from the University of Canberra tells me “…they [young people] bump into news while they are on social media platforms, and this is an important way they are informed. Many young people believe that ‘news will find me’ and rely on these platforms to get critical information about their surroundings, and society.”

As a result, phasing out news from major platforms that women use (such as Instagram and Facebook) will reduce the exposure to news among this group. “We know that social media platforms can be a place where misinformation flourishes as well. These young women may miss out on critical information and also increase their experience of misinformation,” says Dr Park.

Pulling the news from Instagram could mean that when  a lot of young Australians, particularly women, turn to social media to learn about what’s happening in the world, they’re less likely to consume credible, fact-checked news. It’ll lead to a rise of unverified content, opinion, and misinformation – which, as experts have pointed out, could undermine political discourse and democracy – in a year where nearly half the world’s population is going to the polls.

The rise of misinformation

Meta banning the news will impact women.
(Credit: Getty )

Nations such as the US, India and South Africa are going to elections this year, and when countries like the US are becoming reproductive rights battlegrounds, never has it been more important to ensure that women are as informed as they can be and have access to timely and credible information.

Meta pulling the news, as they have done in Canada, could have a chilling effect in the way young people, particularly women, consume news.

“If social media platforms deliberately reduce or ban the news, it will be a huge loss for young people who rely on social media to get their daily news,” Dr Park tells me.

“They will have to acquire new habits of seeking news, but this will take time. Furthermore, the deficit of quality news may be filled with lower quality information and misinformation that have not been verified. This means younger women will be more exposed to misinformation,” she says.

Two unpublished studies shared with Reuters show that the news ban in Canada has led to “profound and disturbing” changes in the way Canadians engage with information around politics.

“The news being talked about in political groups is being replaced by memes,” Taylor Owen, founding director of McGill University’s Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy, told Reuters. “The ambient presence of journalism and true information in our feeds, the signals of reliability that were there, that’s gone,” he says.

As so well put by Zara Seidler of The Daily Aus – which really struck a chord with me: “…In that post-Instagram-news world, what will be left? We’ll have unverified information spreading like wildfire, we’ll have targeted disinformation campaigns, we’ll have influencer hot-takes and there will be nowhere left for young people to turn for reputable, fact-checked news.”

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones has recently shared concerns around threats to quality news on social media. If the government really is serious about promoting a healthy news ecosystem, then they shouldn’t be designating Meta.

We’ve seen it play out in Canada, and it could as well happen here in Australia. And young women will suffer the most.

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