The report says Facebook “deliberately” shut down critical Australian pages in 2021

The report points the finger at Facebook for closing pages of hospitals, government agencies and charities.

A bombshell report revealed that Facebook was aware of its impact when it “inadvertently” closed the pages of Australian hospitals, emergency services and charities in 2021.

In February last year, Facebook blocked news websites in Australia in response to potential legislation that would force platforms to pay publishers for content. When the blackout occurred, hundreds of other pages that weren’t news organizations were also blocked.

At the time of the chaos, Facebook said the shutdown of pages relating to the Australian government, hospitals and charities was “unintentional”.

However, a report from the Wall Street newspaper revealed that the blackout was hailed as a strategic masterstroke.

“Facebook documents and testimony filed with US and Australian authorities by whistleblowers claim that the social media giant has deliberately created an excessively broad and sloppy process to delete the pages, allowing portions of the Australian government and health services to be caught in its network just as the country was launching vaccinations against Covid, ”reads the story published on May 6.

The publication claims, according to whistleblowers and documents, that the move to close these other pages was to exert maximum negotiating pressure on the Australian parliament. He was about to vote on the world’s first law that would require platforms like Google and Facebook to pay news organizations for content.

“Despite claiming it only targeted news outlets, the company implemented an algorithm for deciding which pages to remove that it knew would certainly affect more than publishers, according to documents and people familiar with the matter,” the report adds. .

The authorities that managed these Facebook pages were not informed in advance of the blocking nor did they provide a redress system once they were prevented from using the platform.

Facebook denied the moves were a negotiating tactic.

“The documents in question clearly show that we intended to exempt Australian government pages from restrictions in an effort to minimize the impact of this misleading and harmful legislation,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told WSJ.

“When we were unable to do it as expected due to a technical error, we apologized and worked to correct it. Any suggestion to the contrary is categorically and obviously false ”. Facebook felt it needed a broad tool because the law didn’t define the news, Stone said.

Originally published as Facebook aware of the mass closure of pages despite claiming it was “unintentional”