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Emergency services and even the WEATHER caught in the crossfire of Facebook’s war on Australian news

Emergency services that provide Australians with news about Covid-19, bushfires and where to go for domestic violence help are among the vital Facebook pages which have been scrapped by the foreign-owned social media giant.  

Even the Bureau of Meteorology’s Facebook page has been pulled by the US-based Big Tech company, along with crucial health information pages from the Queensland, South Australian and ACT governments.  

Facebook also blocked its own page during the blundered roll-out of its ban on Australian news in response to the proposed Media Bargaining Code.

The law would make companies like Google and Facebook negotiate fees with news providers to use their content.

The extraordinary decision to remove news services from the platform rather than obey Australian law also meant 1800Respect – the national domestic violence and sexual assault helpline – can no longer 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.  

South Australian Health Minister Stephen Wade said Facebook’s move to restrict vital public health information during a global pandemic ‘was absolutely unacceptable’.  

‘To restrict the dissemination of important public health information during a global pandemic is absolutely unacceptable,’ he wrote on Twitter. 

‘I urge Facebook to immediately reverse this decision.’ 

Facebook said in a statement on Thursday morning the ban on government pages was accidental and they should not have been impacted by the changes. 

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The Bureau of Meteorology’s posts have been removed from Facebook after the social media giant blocked all content from Australian news outlets

The Queensland, South Australia and ACT Health pages have all had their posts removed as of Thursday morning

Posts from South Australia's health service have been stripped from the social media platform

The Queensland, South Australia and ACT Health pages have all had their posts removed as of Thursday morning

The ban means Australians could not access vital information about the Covid-19 pandemic on government Facebook pages on Thursday morning. Pictured is a masked fan at the Australian Open last week

The ban means Australians could not access vital information about the Covid-19 pandemic on government Facebook pages on Thursday morning. Pictured is a masked fan at the Australian Open last week

ESSENTIAL SERVICES BLOCKED BY FACEBOOK’S AUSTRALIAN NEWS BAN 

 Health and emergency services

ACT Health

Queensland Health

SA Health

Western Sydney Health

Sydney Local Health District 

NSW Fire and Rescue Service  

Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA

1800Respect 

UNICEF Australia

RACQ Official 

Immunisation Foundation of Australia 

Weather 

Bureau of Meteorology

Satire 

The Betoota Advocate

The Chaser 

 

 Charities

 National Homeless Collective

Melbourne Period Project

The Plate Up Project

Sacred Heart Mission 

The School Project

The Kala Space

DV Connect 

Media Diversity Australia

Consumer Action Law Centre 

Sport

 AFLW

Cricket Australia 

Women’s Rugby League 

Queensland Rugby League 

Trade unions 

The Australian Council of Trade Unions 

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance

 

 

‘The actions we’re taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content,’ a spokesman said.

‘As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted.

‘However, we will reverse any pages that are inadvertently impacted.’  

The Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Facebook profile – whose members represent two million workers across the country – was also no longer accessible on Thursday morning.

‘We are not a news organisation,’ Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Sally McManus wrote on Twitter.

NSW Fire and Rescue's posts have also been blocked as part of the changes put into place by Facebook on Thursday morning. Firefighters pictured battling the Wooroloo Bushfire, north-west of Perth on February 2

NSW Fire and Rescue’s posts have also been blocked as part of the changes put into place by Facebook on Thursday morning. Firefighters pictured battling the Wooroloo Bushfire, north-west of Perth on February 2

‘Australian workers cannot now find out about their rights at work via Facebook. This is disgraceful and needs to be reversed immediately.’ 

Dozens of pages linked to charities have also been 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.’

Ms Stolzenberg said people experiencing homelessness would now have few options for help.

1800Respect - the national domestic violence and sexual assault helpline - has also been banned by Facebook

1800Respect – the national domestic violence and sexual assault helpline – has also been banned by Facebook

DV Connect and 1800Respect are among the dozens of charities to have been affected by the ban

DV Connect and 1800Respect are among the dozens of charities to have been affected by the ban

‘We’ve been set back 30 years by this. So many charities will fall apart. We can’t advertise fundraising events or call for volunteers when we need help. We can’t ask for assistance with donations. People can’t reach out to us anymore. 

‘About 99 percent of the people we support find us through our Facebook pages. That is literally tens of thousands of people each year.’

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. 

Bizarrely, posts from the AFL Women’s Facebook page have been taken down but those on the men’s page are unaffected. 

Just weeks away from March 13’s Western Australian state election meanwhile , Facebook kept up posts from Premier Mark McGowan but emptied those from WA Liberal leader Zak Kirkup.

A BoM spokesman said they had contacted Facebook to get their posts reinstated.

SA Health’s Twitter and Instagram pages are unaffected.

Facebook kept up posts from Premier Mark McGowan but emptied those from WA Liberal leader Zak Kirkup

Facebook removed posts from Liberal leader Zak Kirkup but not WA's Labor premier

Facebook kept up posts from Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan but emptied those from WA Liberal leader Zak Kirkup

‘Our website remains active,’ a spokesman for the health service said.

‘You can follow our Instagram and Twitter for your health news. SA Health has contacted Facebook to rectify this issue.’ 

Westpac Rescue Helicopter CEO Richard Jones said there would be serious consequences if the service couldn’t communicate with its communities on Facebook. 

Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Sally McManus hit out at Facebook on Twitter after discovering the Big Tech company had blocked access to content from Australian Unions

Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Sally McManus hit out at Facebook on Twitter after discovering the Big Tech company had blocked access to content from Australian Unions

‘I couldn’t comment on the impacts yet but if we were unable to talk to our communities that would be devastating,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. 

Facebook’s decision to ban Australian news means its nine million user nationwide who log into the site every day can no longer view any news whatsoever about their nation or anywhere else in the world – but can still read conspiracy theories, news from dictators and other extremist unsubstantiated views. 

Bizarrely, posts from the AFL Women's Facebook page have been taken down but those on the men's page are unaffected

Bizarrely, posts from the AFL Women’s Facebook page have been taken down but those on the men’s page are unaffected

The law 'fundamentally misunderstands' the relationship between tech platforms and publishers, Facebook said, adding that it has helped Australian publishers earn about AU$407 million last year through referrals (pictured: Another black Australian news site)

Facebook’s decision means its 13 million monthly users in Australia, including the nine million who use the site daily, can no longer view any news – even from foreign websites (pictured: Another blacked-out Australian news site)

The social media platform’s 13 million monthly Australian users cannot read news from established organisations or even shares news with each other on Facebook – which is particularly damaging to those living in regional and remote areas.  

Facebook’s move contrasts with Google, which in recent days has brokered deals with most Australian media groups – from Nine, to Seven and News Corp – in response to the regulatory push.  

Even Treasurer Josh Frydenberg appeared to have been blindsided by the decision, tweeting he’d had ‘constructive’ discussion with Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday morning after the social networking site pulled news from Australia. 

FACEBOOK’S CHANGES TO NEWS IN AUSTRALIA 

Facebook has restricted publishers and social media users in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.

What does this mean for Australian news organisations?

Australian news organisations will be restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages 

Admins will still be able to access Page insights and Creator Studio on their Facebook pages

Facebook said they will continue to provide access to other standard services, including data tools and CrowdTangle

What does this mean for international news organisations?

International news organisations can still post on Facebook but Australian users will not be able to see the content or share it 

What does this mean for Australian Facebook users?

Australian Facebook users will not be able to view or share Australian or international news content 

What does this mean for international Facebook users?

International Facebook users will not be able to view or share Australian news content on Facebook  

‘He raised a few remaining issues with the Government’s news media bargaining code and we agreed to continue our conversation to try to find a pathway forward,’ Mr Frydenberg tweeted. 

Former Facebook Australia CEO Stephen Scheeler told Sunrise’s David Koch meanwhile that Australians ‘should be alarmed’. 

‘I’m not inside Facebook anymore Kochie but I would guess that the problem is they can’t come to the right commercial terms they want here in Australia with the big publishers,’ he said.

‘They [Facebook] therefore tried to scare the horses here by saying ”here’s what we’re going to do if the government doesn’t back down”. ‘ 

Mr Scheeler said he was ‘disappointed’ in Facebook’s decision.

‘Imagine if a Chinese company for example had done this… We would be up in arms,’ he said. 

‘I think this isn’t a small thing. All Australians should be quite alarmed by this and it shows why tech has so much power and why we need to regulate them. This is another example of why we can’t stand still.’  

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Facebook’s move is likely to increase the amount of disinformation on Facebook. 

‘There are already questions about the credibility of information and sources on the Facebook platform,’ he told Ben Fordham on 2GB radio. 

Facebook has banned Australian news content in response to the proposed Media Bargaining Code. Pictured: the company's CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has banned Australian news content in response to the proposed Media Bargaining Code. Pictured: the company’s CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg

‘They’re basically saying to Australians: ”If you’re looking for reliable news, Facebook is not the place to look for it”.’ 

The minister told the ABC Australia will not back down.

‘We will be proceeding with the code. 

‘We want Google and Facebook to stay in Australia but we have been very clear that if you do business in Australia, you need to comply with the laws passed by the elected parliament of this nation.’

But he didn’t rule out tweaking the code after continuing discussions with Facebook.

A screenshot shows a notification from Facebook that explains a news article cannot be shared

A screenshot shows a notification from Facebook that explains a news article cannot be shared

FACEBOOK’S CHANGES TO NEWS IN AUSTRALIA 

Facebook has restricted publishers and social media users in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.

What does this mean for Australian news organisations?

Australian news organisations will be restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages 

Admins will still be able to access Page insights and Creator Studio on their Facebook pages

Facebook said they will continue to provide access to other standard services, including data tools and CrowdTangle

What does this mean for international news organisations?

International news organisations can still post on Facebook but Australian users will not be able to see the content or share it 

What does this mean for Australian Facebook users?

Australian Facebook users will not be able to view or share Australian or international news content 

What does this mean for international Facebook users?

International Facebook users will not be able to view or share Australian news content on Facebook  

‘Let’s allow those discussions to continue and, at the same time, let’s continue with the process of legislating the code,’ he said.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who ferociously grilled Facebook and Google representatives in a senate inquiry last month, slammed the move.

‘Blocking Australian news overnight, while allowing hate speech and dangerous conspiracy theories run rampant.

‘Facebook has just confirmed it really is just FakeBook,’ she said.  

The social media giant has since been accused of hypocrisy for allowing pages promoting the likes of China’s communist regime to post unabated, while stopping millions of Australians from accessing reliable and informative news. 


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