What we know so far about Facebook's blocking of news content in Australia

Facebook on Thursday, February 18, started blocking news content from being read and shared in its news feed in Australia, following its opposition to a proposed law that would require it and Google to pay the country’s news publishers. (READ: Governments force Google, Facebook to pay for news. Can they win vs big tech?)

International news sites, including those from the Philippines, were also blocked.

Here are the details so far:

Scope

According to William Easton, managing director at Facebook Australia & New Zealand, Australian publishers are restricted from sharing or posting any content on Facebook pages. Page administrators will still be able to access other features, including Page Insights and Creator Studio, as well as data tools and CrowdTangle.

This means users in and out of the country cannot view or share Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian news pages.

Rappler screenshot

Rappler screenshot

International publishers can continue to publish on Facebook but links and posts cannot be viewed or shared by audiences in Australia.

Users in Australia also cannot view or share international news content on Facebook.

Rappler screenshot

Rappler screenshot

As of posting, Instagram accounts of news groups could still be accessed in Australia.

Glitches, problems

There are, however, glitches in Facebook’s system, as several nonprofit groups, government pages, and emergency pages, including the Bureau of Meteorology, were affected.

Rappler screenshot

Even Harvey Norman, a popular retailer of electronics and furniture, was also targeted.

Rappler screenshot

Disinformation, propaganda continue

While news and several government pages were blocked, propaganda and advocacy pages continue to exist on Facebook Australia.

The page of Mocha Uson, a known supporter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, could still be accessed in Australia. Uson’s page has a long history of spreading wrong information mainly aimed at targeting Duterte critics. (READ: What is Mocha Uson's top source of news?)

Rappler screenshot

The group The Patriotic Filipino, a page that has been flagged by third-party fact checkers for spreading false misinformation, is also still accessible. According to its page transparency tab, the primary location of people who manage the page is Australia.

Rappler screenshot

Rappler screenshot

US-based News Media Alliance President & CEO David Chavern called the move “misguided,” adding that “it is well-established that in the absence of real news, misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech flourish – a problem Facebook is all too familiar with.”

Facebook said it is still committed to removing "harmful misinformation" and to its third-party fact-checking program with Agence France-Presse and Australian Associated Press

However, AFP Fact Check was also blocked as of posting.

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– Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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