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Australia Facebook unrepentant as Prime Minister dubs emergency services block 'arrogant'

13:35  18 february  2021
13:35  18 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

Big News: Facebook Just Banned More COVID-19 Anti-Vax Content

  Big News: Facebook Just Banned More COVID-19 Anti-Vax Content In a significant move, Facebook has announced it will remove any misleading claims and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines from both Facebook and Instagram. It's part of a broader move to help combat fake news about the pandemic. Since December, the platform has been removing claims about the coronavirus that have been debunked by health experts. But on Monday, the company expanded this policy and are now specifically targeting common anti-vax claims.

  Facebook unrepentant as Prime Minister dubs emergency services block 'arrogant' © AAP

Facebook's head of policy in the Asia-Pacific argues it was the government's proposed law — and not a failure to test their algorithm — that pushed them to "inadvertently" block emergency services pages during bushfire season.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hammered the social media giant over its actions, dubbing them arrogant and disappointing.

Simon Milner, Facebook's head of public policy for the Asia-Pacific region, told the ABC the capture of non-news pages reflects what Facebook argues is a broad definition of "news" as defined in the law.

"One of the criticisms we had about the law that was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday is that the definition of news is incredibly broad and vague."

Facebook's news ban 'wrong, unnecessary and heavy-handed'

  Facebook's news ban 'wrong, unnecessary and heavy-handed' Facebook's actions against Australian news will damage its reputation, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says. He said Facebook's ban has shown the immense power of "digital giants"."Facebook was wrong. Facebook's actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed," Mr Frydenberg said in Canberra today."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 which is yet to pass through the Senate.

He wouldn't address whether the mass-blocking had been tested, but he conceded some pages were "inadvertently" caught.

"We are correcting those, many of those have already been fully restored and able to share now, and we're continuing to act on others that have been notified to us."

The government has proposed the law to force companies like Google and Facebook to negotiate with media companies.

They are designed to ensure these media companies are fairly remunerated for the use of their content on search engines and social media platforms.

Google has signed deals with publishers in response, but Facebook has chosen to follow through on its threat and remove news for Australian users.

Mr Morrison released a statement critical of Facebook's "actions to unfriend Australia today", describing them as "as arrogant as they were disappointing".

Facebook blocks Indigenous health groups, regional media as COVID vaccine rollout nears

  Facebook blocks Indigenous health groups, regional media as COVID vaccine rollout nears Indigenous health and media groups fear the shutdown of community pages may have a "devastating" impact on regional communities during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Crucial sources of information have been lost as small media outlets, community noticeboards and health services been caught up in Facebook's sweeping shutdown of Australian news.Facebook has blocked the feeds of Australian news companies on its site and is preventing users from sharing Australian news content.

"These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of big tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them."

He added "we will not be intimidated by big tech".

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher disagrees with Facebook's complaint related to the definition of "news" in the law but has offered to work through the "misunderstanding".

No apology to small business

Mr Milner appeared in a Senate committee in January promising that removing news from Facebook would not affect small business.

"I can reassure the committee … that this [the potential removal of news] does not mean that Facebook would no longer be available for the millions of people in Australia who love Facebook and for the many small businesses, including in regional Australia, that make use of Facebook."

Pacific media warns Facebook ban on Australian news could have serious effects in the region

  Pacific media warns Facebook ban on Australian news could have serious effects in the region Facebook's decision to block Australian news sites could help misinformation flourish in Pacific Island nations, where the platform is most popularly used to share and read news online. Amanda Watson from the Australian National University (ANU) — who is an expert in digital technology in the Pacific — said Facebook had an outsized presence in the region. "Many people [in the Pacific] would understand Facebook as being the internet. They wouldn't necessarily know how to search or move outside Facebook if they wanted to find information," she said.

Sallie Jones, who owns a Gippsland dairy business, told the ABC her business's content had been removed.

"For us not to have Facebook in the first place, which I'm totally freaking out about, but the function of not to be able to share the news links, it's just so disappointing to us as a company," she said.

Her page was reinstated in the afternoon.

Mr Milner declined the opportunity to apologise to her, saying he could not comment on individual cases.

Mr Milner also declined to respond to the question of whether he could understand why Australians were upset, instead replying: "I can understand why people are responding to the actions we're taking today."

When asked why Facebook would do something that would risk impairing the flow of emergency information in the midst of bushfire season, Mr Milner said, "we did not want to do this".

"This is caused by the law that was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday."

The proposed law is likely to be passed by the Senate next week.

Discussions between Facebook and the government are continuing.


Video: Facebook emergency services ban ‘demonstrates its arrogance’ (Sky News Australia)

Facebook lifts ban on Aussie news sites .
Australia's 13 million Facebook users are finally able to view local news on their feeds again.As of 1am AEDT this morning, Australia's 13 million Facebook users were finally able to view local news on their feeds again after the social media giant reached an agreement with the Federal Government over its new media code.

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