‘Sort this out’: Facebook’s chaotic news ban in Australia blocks pages for fire services, charities

Canberra, Australia (CNN Business)Fire and emergency services. Domestic violence charities. State health agencies.Facebook’s sudden and dramatic decision to block people from sharing news in Australia has had unexpected consequences for a wide range of government organizations and service groups, who…

'Sort this out': Facebook's chaotic news ban in Australia blocks pages for fire services, charities

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Canberra, Australia (CNN Business)Fire and emergency services. Domestic violence charities. State health agencies.Facebook’s sudden and dramatic decision to block people from sharing news in Australia has had unexpected consequences for a wide range of government organizations and service groups, who woke up Thursday to find that their pages had been inexplicably swept up in the company’s far-reaching ban, too.The American social media giant said Wednesday that it would stop people in Australia from sharing or viewing news from local and international outlets in response to proposed legislation in the country that would force tech firms to pay news publishers for content.Although some of the pages have now been reinstated — and Facebook says it will reverse pages “inadvertently impacted” by its move — questions remain in Australia about why they were pulled down by Facebook in the first place.Read MoreFoodBank Australia Chief Executive Brianna Casey tweeted that her organization, a major hunger relief charity in the country, could no longer access its page on Thursday.”Demand for food relief has never been higher than during this pandemic,” she said. “Hours matter when you have nothing to eat. SORT THIS OUT!” Many other charities, including the 1800Respect domestic violence support line and a range of health organizations working with Indigenous Australians, also found their pages blocked Thursday.So did state and territory health departments, including those of Queensland and South Australia.”Facebook isn’t the only way we reach people but it’s an significant one,” said Robert Hoge, the executive director of strategic communications at Queensland Health, in a statement. Queensland is Australia’s third-most populous state and home to the city of Brisbane.”We are in the process of rolling out the first phase of our COVID-19 vaccine program and social media is a key tool with which to communicate this information,” he said, adding that Facebook had gotten this decision “wrong.” Queensland Health and 1800Respect were among the pages that had been reinstated by midday.Much of the criticism was directed at Facebook, which Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said during a press conference had given the government no warning of its imminent ban. “We are in the midst of a once in a century global pandemic,” Brendan Crabb, director and CEO of the Melbourne-based Burnet Institute medical research group told CNN Business. “Has there ever been a time when the general population is more in need of quality, highly reliable, up-to-date health information?”At least one Australian politician also found his professional page affected. In Western Australia, which will hold a state election in just a few weeks, opposition leader Zak Kirkup’s Facebook page was blocked. But Premier Mark McGowan’s was still accessible. While many pages run by government branches and other services were blocked, the ban on sharing content did not appear to be universal. For example, wh

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