Facebook continued its news content in Australia on Wednesday (17/2/2021), after a government order asked the social media platform to pay for the media. Starting Thursday morning (18/2/2021) Australians will not be able to post news links or view Facebook accounts from news agencies around the world. Facebook retaliated in response to an Australian Government bill, which requires the social media giants to pay for news content on their platform.
But the impact didn't just hit news agency accounts. Accounts belonging to fire, health, and meteorology services across Australia are currently experiencing disruption, causing public outrage over the situation to be reported. A Facebook spokesman said official government websites were not allowed. With today's action, and they'll fix accounts that were accidentally affected. Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson called blocking news a dangerous move. 'Cutting off access to important information across the country at midnight makes no sense,' was quoted as saying by AFP.
Media groups and the Australian Government have also voiced similar concerns, fearing hoaxes will spread. The reason is, several Facebook accounts that often upload hoaxes and conspiracy theories are not blocked. Australian Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Facebook should think carefully about professional journalist accounts, editorial policies, and fact-checking processes.
Facebook balked at the Australian bill, saying it could adhere to its business model. 'The proposed legislation on understanding misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who charge for sharing news content,' said Facebook manager for Australia and New Zealand, William Easton. 'This leaves us with a heavy choice: complying with the law that ignores this fact, or stopping news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we choose the latter,' he explained. The Australian House of Representatives passed the bill on Wednesday evening, and it is now being shortlisted by the Senate.