Saturday, February 27, 2021

Facebook Reportedly Blocks Own Page As It Restricts Australian News Sites


Facebook’s own account was inaccessible in Australia on Wednesday as the platform outlawed news content from its services in the country.

The Mark Zuckerberg-led site said in a blog this week that it was restricting publishers and citizens from “sharing or viewing Australian and international news content” in response to a new “media bargaining” law that reached parliament this week.

However, several government and non-news pages were mistakenly silenced as the changes were being rolled out.

Among the accounts was ACT Health—which provides residents with information about COVID—alongside the Bureau of Meteorology and Queensland Health. The impacted pages have since been restored, a Facebook spokesperson told local media.

But another account seemingly caught up in the ban appeared to be Facebook’s own page, according to a tweet by Andrew Brown, a Canberra Times journalist, who posted an image of the profile to Twitter showing how its posts were left inaccessible.

A Facebook spokesperson told, which reported Facebook’s page showed a message of “no posts yet” as of Thursday morning, that “government pages should not be impacted and it would restore pages that are “inadvertently impacted.”

A statement read: “The actions we’re taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content.

“As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted.”

Under the proposed News Media Bargaining Code, tech firms including Facebook and Google would have to pay publishers for access to news content.

It would let media organizations bargain either individually or collectively with tech firms over how much they should get for letting the companies host their content.

Advocates said the law “seeks to address the fundamental bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and major digital platforms,” but Facebook rejected the proposed code—and took unprecedented steps in retaliation.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” the Facebook blog said.

“We’ve long worked toward rules that would encourage innovation and collaboration between digital platforms and news organizations. Unfortunately this legislation does not do that…. it seeks to penalize Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for.”

Here’s the results of the Australia news blocks, per the Facebook blog:

Facebook Blog post re Australia news block
A screenshot from a Facebook blog post detailing new Australian content blocks.
Facebook Newsroom/Screenshot

Facebook said it had been prepared to launch Facebook News in Australia and boost investment into local publishers, but the legislation would be one step too far.

Facebook said the law would set a precedent where a “government decides who enters into” news agreements and said publishers already gain from its free service. Facebook said it would “now prioritize investments to other countries” instead of Australia.

The news came as News Corp, the media giant controlled by Rupert Murdoch that is widely active in Australia, said on Wednesday it had agreed to a multi-year partnership deal with Google that would see the tech firm sharing content from its news sites in return for “significant payments.” Financial terms were not disclosed.

The Google deal included Australian outlets including The Australian,, Sky News, and multiple metropolitan and local titles, News Corp said in a release.

Facebook countered in its blog post on Wednesday that the social network was different to the search engine company as news publishers “willingly” use its service.

William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia & New Zealand, wrote: “We understand many will ask why the platforms may respond differently. The answer is because our platforms have fundamentally different relationships with news.

“Google Search is inextricably intertwined with news and publishers do not voluntarily provide their content. On the other hand, publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook, as it allows them to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue.” Facebook has been contacted for comment.

In this photo illustration a message is seen on Facebook mobile, on February 18, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. Facebook has banned publishers and users in Australia from posting and sharing news content as the Australian government prepares to pass laws that will require social media companies to pay news publishers for sharing or using content on their platforms.
Robert Cianflone/Getty


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