Tech

Facebook is accused of intentionally blocking government and health sites in Australia


Whistleblowers are accusing Facebook of knowingly blocking emergency services, healthcare and government services in Australia to obstruct a potential law requiring platforms to pay for news, arrive WSJ. The whistleblowers say that the platform last year created an algorithm to identify the pages that would affect the most publishers. But Facebook is said to not only remove pages for the media – it also removes pages for hospitals, governments and charities.

According to the documents, Facebook assembled a team of about a dozen employees tasked with removing news content from Australia. The team bypassed Facebook’s existing database of existing news publishers. Instead, Facebook employees quickly created a new algorithm with a definition of news broad enough to grab a large number of non-news pages. “If 60 percent of [sic] much of the domain’s content shared on Facebook is classified as news, then the entire domain will be considered a news domain,” an internal document states.

The end result was – for several days – Australians were unable to access or share any news or information from governments and healthcare sites on Facebook. The timing is especially bad, as the country is just about to embark on a mass vaccination campaign for Covid-19. Some Australian health officials have criticized the move. “It’s truly ironic that Facebook has allowed health misinformation to be spread through its platform throughout this pandemic, but today much of this misinformation remains on Facebook while informational sources remain on Facebook. Official news is blocked… [The decision is] corporate bullying at its worst,” said Australian Medical Association President, Dr Omar Khorshid NBC last year.

Facebook’s troubles in Australia began when the country’s Parliament began devising ways to force companies to pay publishers for news content distributed across search products and media platforms. social media. Back in February 2021, the Australian House of Commons passed a version of this Facebook-disputed law. Company then Australians do not share or view news on this platform at all. After many days of public opposition, the Australian Parliament finally negotiated with Facebook and passed has the backing of the social media giant. Facebook then ban.

Facebook still insists that blocking government and healthcare sites is random. “The documents in question make it clear that we intend to waive the restrictions on Australian government Pages in an effort to mitigate the impact of this false and harmful law,” a Facebook spokesperson said. Andy Stone said. WSJ. “When we were unable to perform as intended due to a technical error, we apologized and worked to fix it. Any suggestion to the contrary is a clear and obvious mistake. “

Documents filed by the accusers with the US Department of Justice and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, WSJ reported. Several members of the US Congress were also given copies of the Facebook documents.

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