Research from the News and Media Research Centre at the University of Canberra has shown that elderly and regional news consumers are likely to be hurt the most by Facebook's decision to restrict Australian news on its service.
The study of local news consumption shows that 32 per cent of people in small Local Government Areas with populations under 30,000 are turning to social media to fill the gap.
Associate Professor Caroline Fisher said that regional Australia had been hit hard by newspaper closures and job losses.
"More than 100 news outlets closed during COVID-19," she said.
"Removing news from Facebook means those with already limited access to news will have their choices further restricted.
"Furthermore, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of those who experienced news closures in their local area use social media to get local news, compared to only 16 per cent who did not experience a closure."
Dr Fisher said while younger generations use social media more than older generations, they get news from several social media platforms. For older people, Facebook tends to be the only social media they use for news. Therefore, they are more likely to be affected by this block.
"We found that 11 per cent of those from the Baby Boomer generation and older indicated they solely checked Facebook for news, compared to three per cent of Gen Z and Gen X respondents," she said.
Dr Fisher also said that while certain marginalised groups will feel the impact of the Facebook news ban more than others, we need to remember that in the hybrid media environment, Facebook is just one source of news.
"Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform for news in Australia (39 per cent), but almost all consumers use more than one platform to access news," she said.
"Only 6 per cent of Australians use Facebook to access news at the exclusion of all other social media platforms."
Other key statistics include:
- The use of Facebook for news is declining globally. In Australia, it has fallen from 45 per cent in 2016, to 39 per cent in 2020.
- If news from Facebook is taken away, people may be more vulnerable to misinformation. The majority (64 per cent) of Australians already have high levels of concern about misinformation and especially on Facebook (36 per cent), more than on news websites or apps (19 per cent) and other social platforms.
- Currently, 31 per cent of online news consumers go directly to the news websites, whereas 37 per cent come across news while they are on social media.
- Those whose main source of news is social media (16 per cent) are much less likely to go directly to news brands compared to those who use TV (27 per cent).