Facebook and Australia’s rift worsens as Facebook inadvertently blocked pages of various non-news organizations while blocking all the users in the region from viewing and sharing news content

Facebook and Australia are at loggerheads at the moment because of drafted legislation for payback for Australian journalism services. If this bill passes and becomes a law, which is being called the ‘News Media Bargaining Code,’ then all the tech companies that take news content from Australian publishers and news/media agencies will have to pay for their services.

While it makes sense for the Australians and the Australian government is not ready to back down, both Facebook and Google have shown their aversion to this pre-empted law. And now, to put its point firmly across, Facebook has taken a drastic step. It blocked all the Australian users from viewing and sharing Australian as well as international news content.

The matter turned worse when many non-news organizations found out that Facebook inadvertently blocked their pages also. Amongst these innocent victims are pages of non-profit organizations, food banks, government organizations like State Health departments, fire, and emergency services which all got blocked by Facebook. Surprisingly, the company even blocked its own Facebook page amidst the “mass-blocking massacre!”

Now, journalists and activists found this action very offensive because all these pages are to help people in their difficult times. It is unfathomable how Facebook can stoop so low to block pages like emergency services, food banks, etc. Paul Fletcher, the Australian Communications Minister believes that this is a major public safety issue.’ He said that he spoke to Facebook to restore all these pages post-haste, and finally, Facebook conceded and restored all those blocked pages that same day.

However, the company did not forget to put all the blame for its actions on the Australian government. In a statement, Facebook said that the company has reinstated the government pages, but it was the government that pushed it to take such a step in the first place. Facebook said that their actions are solely directed towards Australian publishers and the public from viewing or sharing Australian or international news. One strange thing that the company said was that the drafted law does not provide any “clear guidance on the definition of news content.” And since there was no clarity, the company decided to take the broader definition to respect the drafted legislation.

Now, that was a really silly justification and clearly shows that Facebook only wanted to mess with Australia like a little child whose wish is not being granted! Because the truth is that the drafted law clearly defines that a news organization is a business entity that regularly produces core news content. And then the definition of ‘core news content’ is also available. So, Facebook’s justification is as faulty as its childish behavior!

Australia’s Prime Minister has called out Facebook for being arrogant and he further stated that these actions only confirm that these giant tech firms believe that they are bigger than governments of various countries. It also means that the regulatory reins must be tightened around these big companies.
SOPA Images via Getty Images
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