Facebook is accused of having blocked pages of the Australian government

Facebook was accused of having voluntarily blocked Australian government, relief services and hospital pages last year, to put pressure on the country’s authorities who were preparing to vote on a law that the platform opposed.

In an article published Thursday, the Wall Street Journal published testimony and documents suggesting that the group of mark zuckerberg used these methods to frontally oppose a Canberra bill on media pay.

The law was voted on in February 2021 and obliges groups such as Facebook and Google to pay millions of dollars to media organizations in exchange for the traffic generated by the re-publishing of press articles on their platforms.

After the approval of the law, Facebook had expressed its disagreement by blocking temporarily current content in that country, but due to complaints the group backed down and had reached a last minute agreement with the Australian government.

Many pages of government agencies such as the fire department of Western Australia as well as those of charitable associations were affected by the suspension that lasted five days, something that Facebook had described as involuntary.

But according to the sources consulted by the Wall Street Journal, it was actually a deliberate strategy to force legislators, through an algorithm unable to distinguish between the pages of the media and those that shared current articles.

The NGO Whistleblower Aid, which legally supported the former employee of Facebook Frances Haugenwhich revealed information that tarnished the group’s reputation, filed the complaint Thursday with the US Justice Department as well as Australia’s main competition authority (ACCC).

For Libby Liu, president of Whistleblower Aid, Facebook “used its power by endangering the safety of the population in the middle of the forest fire season and in the midst of a global pandemic in order to force the Australian parliament to pass a favorable law”.

For its part, Facebook continues to express that it was an accident.

“The documents in question clearly show that we had sought to exempt Australian government pages from these restrictions in order to minimize the impact of this dangerous and uninformed legislation,” a spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, told AFP on Friday.

“Since we were unsuccessful in doing so due to a technical error, we made excuses and put everything in place to correct it. Any suggestion to the contrary is categorically and patently false,” he added.

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