Facebook Apologizes for Removing Emergency, Charity, and Health Pages amid Australian News Pullout

Facebook apologized for accidentally wiping pages operated by charities, government organizations, and state health departments after deciding to ban Australian news sites due to the government’s proposed media code. 

Australians were surprised to see that pages like 1800Respect, the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services, and the Bureau of Meteorology were all removed.

Facebook’s vice president of public policy for the Asia-Pacific region, Simon Milner apologized for the inclusion of non-news sites and that it was the government’s proposed law, not their algorithm that caused the mass page purge. 

The blocking of the pages came amid Australia’s bushfire season and COVID outbreaks. 

“This is a really hard thing to do. We’ve never done it before. We are sorry for the mistakes we made in some of the implementation,” said Milner.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg criticized Facebook’s move and said what they did was wrong and unnecessary.

“Their decision to block Australians’ access to government sites — be they about support through the pandemic, mental health, emergency services, the Bureau of Meteorology — was completely unrelated to the media code, which is yet to pass through the Senate,” said Frydenberg.

Frydenberg announced he had spoken to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to find an amenable solution between two parties.

Milner, however, has not ruled out the eventual return of Australian news content to Facebook and said that the outcome would be dependent on the passing of the news media bargaining code law by the end of next week.

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