Facebook News Ban: How Charity & Emergency Services Were Affected?

Several pages including pages on COVID outbreaks, bushfires and cyclones were removed by Facebook.

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Tech and Auto
2 min read
Australians will feel some short-term negative impacts of Facebook’s flex. Image used for representation. 
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As Facebook resorted to a blanket ban on news pages, including emergency services, after falling out with the Australian government over monetising news content, the country’s emergency and health services were hit hard on Thursday, 18 February.

This happened after several pages including pages on COVID outbreaks, bushfires and cyclones were non-accessible.

According to news agency AFP, fire, health and meteorological services around the country saw problems with their Facebook pages, amid several serious public emergencies.

The decision to remove pages was taken after the Australian government demanded the tech giant pay Australian news publishers for posting their content. Following which, Facebook on Thursday, removed thousands of news pages along with some emergency service-related pages and its own page.

Healthcare Services Affected

As Australia prepares to roll out COVID-19 vaccines, several health accounts of Canberra health , SA Health and Queensland Health department were scrubbed by Facebook.

According to media reports, these health departments issue daily reports on COVID-19 pandemic to thousands of Australians.

Responding to this, St Vincent’s Health Department in Melbourne said, “It is extremely concerning that its Facebook page had been blocked amid a pandemic and on the eve of crucial COVID vaccine distribution”.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Greg Hunt stated that he was shocked after pages of Bowel Cancer Australia and the Kids Cancer Project had been removed too.“The fact that the kids cancer project could be affected, is, frankly a disgrace. Facebook should fix it and they should address that immediately,” he said.

Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler tweeted, “We’re in the middle of a pandemic”. “Australians need to hear from credible voices in the vaccine rollout. This is completely irresponsible from Facebook. The Morrison government needs to fix this today.”

Fire & Weather Services Affected

Fire and Meteorological services were also experiencing problems with their Facebook page. Environment Minister Sussan Ley informed through a tweet that “the government's Bureau of Meteorology's page has been impacted by the sudden Facebook news content restrictions", and she urged people to move to the website to avail any emergency services.

The worst situation was observed in Queensland state where Meterological department issued a series of flash flood warnings after heavy rainfall in the area, but the page was inaccessible to users. "Incredible. Unbelievable. Unacceptable," said Western Australian MP Madeleine King

Meanwhile, the Western Australia fire department's Facebook page was unavailable as well, despite "catastrophic fire danger" conditions.

Charity Pages Affected

Along with Health and Emergency services, several charity pages were also wiped off by the social media giant.

Some of the top charity accounts that were disabled included ‘Small Steps 4 Hannah’, a charity page for a woman who had reportedly died in a horrific murder case.

Some other major charity and social organisations that were removed are Domestic violence and sexual assault charity 1800 RESPECT – one of the busiest Australian counselling services for seeking help against domestic violence and sexual assault.

Hobart Women’s Shelter, Women’s Legal Service NSW, Save the Children Australia and Doctors Without Borders were also scrubbed, reported The Guardian.

However, most of these accounts have been reinstated now.

(With inputs from news agency France-presse)

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