Government organisations including the Bureau of Meteorology had posts wiped from their Facebook pages after the social media giant announced it would ban publishers and people in Australia from sharing and viewing news content.
The ban came in swift retaliation for Australia’s media bargaining code, which will require social media companies to pay media outlets for using their content.
However, it also affected official government and health pages across the nation as well as the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Service and local councils.
Some Queensland councils had content taken down “without warning or explanation”, Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) CEO, Greg Hallam said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Facebook’s action was wrong and heavy handed.
He said Facebook was part of the broad digital media landscape that people relied on for information, including information about government services.
“Their decision to block Australians’ access to government sites, be they about support through the pandemic, mental health, emergency services, the Bureau of Meteorology were completely unrelated to the media code,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Communications minister Paul Fletcher said blocking organisations like state health departments and fire and emergency services was a public safety issue.
“I’ve spoken to Facebook this morning and said the government expects them to restore those pages as quickly as possible,” he said.
Meanwhile, health minister Greg Hunt said what had occurred was shocking.
“We are profoundly shocked that they would take action that affected health and health related sites,” he said.
“Facebook should address it immediately.”
Facebook has released a statement saying government pages should not have been affected and would be reinstated.
“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,” the statement said.
“However, we will reverse any pages that are inadvertently impacted.”
It did not provide a deadline.
Some of the sites were restored through the day, including the Bureau of Meteorology.
“The Bureau of Meteorology’s Facebook page was restored at approximately 12.30pm AEDT today, after having been affected by the broader Facebook changes this morning,” the BOM said in a statement.
WA’s DFES Page was also restored in the course of the day.
“After working with the team at Facebook, DFES page visibility has been restored and we are able to continue providing the WA community with vital emergency information,” the department said in a post. “#Phew.”
A note from our Publisher:
You may be aware that Facebook has removed a number of news sites, including governmentnews.com.au, from showing up in your feed. Why is this important? It’s important because Facebook has demonstrated that it does not care about content ownership, or copyright. Facebook’s decision means we can no longer share our news articles with the thousands of people, who follow GovernmentNews.com.au. However, these recent changes do not affect our other social media platforms and I’d urge you to engage with us instead on Linkedin, and Twitter, or subscribe to our newsletter and bookmark our website www.governmentnews.com.au . Facebook’s decision will not adversely impact what we do, but it will impact the stories that we amplify, but we’ll find a solution. We always do.
Group publisher Mark Kuban
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