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Criticism against Facebook after its sudden move blocking vital content in Australia

Reuters Sydney | Updated on February 18, 2021

Facebook Inc blocked all Australian media content including official information on coronavirus, wildfires and other important services in an escalating dispute over paying for content.

The following are reactions from academics, politicians and NGOs after Facebook Inc blocked all Australian media content including official information on coronavirus, wildfires and other important services in an escalating dispute over paying for content.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, at a televised media conference, said, “Facebook was wrong, Facebook’s actions were unnecessary,they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation herein Australia.”

Save The Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds, in a statement, said, “Save the Children has come to rely on the platform to communicate with our supporters and members of the wider Australian community. We also use Facebook as an important fundraising tool to reach generous supporters who want to support the world’s most vulnerable children. Every minute that our page is down is another minute our message isn’t getting out about the needs of children.”

First Nations Media Australia Chair Dot West, in a statement, said, “We are outraged that access to First Nations voices has been limited in this way. Never has our media been more vital than during a global pandemic - especially on the cusp of vaccination rollouts. First Nations media services are not the same as commercial outlets and should not be negatively impacted by an industrywide response to corporate interests.”

Also read: Facebook news goes dark in Australia as content spat escalates

Foodbank Australia CEO Brianna Casey, in a tweet, said, “This is UNACCEPTABLE. Demand for food relief has never beenhigher than during this pandemic, and one of our primary commstools to help connect people with #foodrelief info & advice isnow unavailable. Hours matter when you have nothing to eat. SORTTHIS OUT!” (sic).

Human Rights Watch, in an emailed statement, said, “This is an alarming and dangerous turn of events. Cutting off access to vital information to an entire country in the dead of the night is unconscionable.”

Tama Leaver, Professor of Internet Studies at Australia’s Curtin University, speaking to Reuters, said, “There’s been a climate the last two or three years of thinking Facebook isn’t doing as good a job of looking after people as it should and I think, whether intentional or not,also blocking emergency services websites and things like that in Australia is a really bad idea in a time of bushfires and Covid. Facebook is 17 years old so it’s a petulant late teenager and behaving accordingly, but when you’ve got global communication as part of what happens on your platform, you don’t get to have a strop (temper tantrum).”

Madeleine King, Federal Opposition Lawmaker, in a tweet, referring to impacted emergency services, said, “So Facebook can instantly block @abcperth, @6PR, @BOM_au,@BOM_WA, AND @dfes_wa in the middle of the #bushfire season, butthey can’t take down murderous gun crime videos? Incredible. Unbelievable. Unacceptable. The arrogance.”

Lisa Davies, Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Newspaper, in a tweet, said, “Well, that’s a tantrum. Facebook has exponentially increased the opportunity for misinformation, dangerous radicalism and conspiracy theories to abound on its platform.”

Published on February 18, 2021

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