Facebook has said that it will reverse any government pages that are inadvertently impacted by its blocking of sharing of any news content in Australia. The social network took the steps to ban sharing of all news articles on the platform because of Australia’s proposed law, which will force itself and Google to pay for using these links. Australia says the new media code is designed to fix imbalances between news organisations and Facebook and Google.
While Facebook has started blocking news articles from being shared, it was also reported that the Facebook pages of many government organisations, charities, hospitals and other organisations in Australia had gone blank.
In a statement, Facebook said that, “Actions we’re taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content,” adding that “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.”
Critics have pointed out that Facebook’s action taken at a time when the world is battling a global pandemic and where Australia is to start its vaccination program, will ensure that misinformation spreads easily.
Responding to the charge, the social media giant said that their “commitment to combat misinformation has not changed,” adding that they will continue to direct Australian users to “authoritative health information and notify them of new updates via our Covid-19 information centre.”
Facebook added that it was continuing its third-party fact-checking partnerships with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Agence France-Press (AFP), who review content and debunk false claims online.
Meanwhile, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Facebook pages for the Sydney Local Health District, the Royal children’s hospital in Melbourne, the Brisbane City Council, Save the Children Australia, Fire and Rescue for New South Wales, Australia, etc, had also gone blank as a result of the company’s actions.