One of Facebook’s top managers has bizarrely blamed the Australian Government’s proposed media laws for the removal of crucial public services for the platform.
Simon Milner, who is head of policy for Facebook for Asia-Pacific, said it was not the social juggernaut’s fault essential public services were removed from Facebook after the platform banned the sharing of all Australian news rather than obey the law.
While Facebook blocked all Australians from reading and sharing local news on Thursday, they also dumped essential pages posting important information about Covid and domestic violence.
The company made the decision in response to world-first law to make foreign tech companies pay media outlets for the content they use.
Simon Milner, head of policy for Facebook in the Asia-Pacific, said it is not the social juggernaut’s fault that essential pages were blocked on Thursday
ESSENTIAL SERVICES BLOCKED BY FACEBOOK’S AUSTRALIAN NEWS BAN
Health and emergency services
Western Sydney Health
Sydney Local Health District
NSW Fire and Rescue Service
Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA
Immunisation Foundation of Australia
Bureau of Meteorology
The Betoota Advocate
National Homeless Collective
Melbourne Period Project
The Plate Up Project
Sacred Heart Mission
The School Project
The Kala Space
Media Diversity Australia
Consumer Action Law Centre
Women’s Rugby League
Queensland Rugby League
The Australian Council of Trade Unions
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
‘One of the criticisms we had about the law that was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday is that the definition of news is incredibly broad and vague,’ he told the ABC.
Mr Milner didn’t comment on whether algorithm tests had been done in the lead up to the mass-blocking, but admitted some vital pages had been ‘inadvertently’ caught up in the ban.
‘We are correcting those, many of those have already been fully restored and able to share now, and we’re continuing to act on others that have been notified to us,’ he said.
Mr Milner said ‘we did not want to do this’ when asked why Facebook would ban necessary information from reaching millions of Australian users.
‘This is caused by the law that was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday,’ he said.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s posts have been removed from Facebook after the social media giant blocked all content from Australian news outlets
1800Respect – the national domestic violence and sexual assault helpline – has also been banned by Facebook
The Queensland, South Australia and ACT Health pages have all had their posts removed as of Thursday morning
The extraordinary decision to remove news services from the platform rather than obey Australian law also meant crucial community services such as domestic violence pages and weather information were hidden from Australians.
1800Respect – the national domestic violence and sexual assault helpline – could not share essential information with some of the most vulnerable Australians.
Westpac and Careflight’s official rescue helicopter pages and NSW Fire and Rescue’s posts have also been blocked, as well as the Bureau of Meteorology.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Facebook profile – whose members represent two million workers across the country – were also no longer accessible on Thursday morning.
Dozens of pages linked to charities were stripped of their content, including the National Homeless Collective and DV Connect.
‘It’s devastating,’ National Homeless Collective CEO and founder Donna Stolzenberg told Daily Mail Australia.
‘This is going to result in a dramatic increase in domestic violence sufferers being left without help and support.’
Human Rights Watch’s Australian director Elaine Pearson said Indigenous community pages had also been caught up in the ban.
‘Cutting off access to vital information to an entire country in the dead of night is unconscionable. We call on Facebook to immediately lift these restrictions,’ she said.
Stephen Scheeler, former Facebook Australia and New Zealand chief executive officer, blasted the tech giant for banning such vital services.
‘Facebook was willing to basically do something that was reckless, that it didn’t matter who else was going to be damaged, we are going to do this for our own financial benefit,’ he told The Project on Thursday.
The Facebook page for Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, now appears like this – saying ‘no posts yet’
The decision means Daily Mail Australia’s nearly five million followers can no longer access our news content on Facebook
‘If it was intentional, it is an even worse thing but that doubly shows that Facebook doesn’t care.
‘It’s irresponsible and I’m really disappointed that Facebook took this move.’
The Government’s proposed law which unsettled CEO Mark Zuckerberg would create an arbitration panel to set a binding price for news in cases where tech giants failed to reach deals with media companies whose original journalism they linked to.
Facebook executives feared giving in to the laws could set a global precedent where it was forced to pay to distribute news.
But now news is banned altogether Down Under and media scholars fear disinformation will now run rampant on Facebook.
Google had also threatened to pull its search engine from Australia in response to the legislation. But the search giant backflipped in recent weeks, striking deals with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment.
Facebook should be ‘sent-packing’ from Australia for stifling free speech after it banned news content, according to Nationals Senator Matt Canavan. Pictured: CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has insisted the government will not back down and said the publisher could either abide by Australia’s laws or leave the country.
The law passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday night and looks set to pass the Senate within days.
Scott Morrison on Thursday afternoon said the government won’t be intimidated by the tech giant.
‘Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,’ he wrote on his own Facebook account.
‘These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are as expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.’
This post was first published on DailyMail.