Facebook blocks local news in Australia

Friday 19 February 2021 | Written by Emmanuel Samoglou | Published in Local, National

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Facebook blocks local news in Australia
Observers in the region say Facebook’s news block has the potential to spread misinformation among Pacific communities. PHOTO: KATRINA LINTONBON. 20122109. PHOTO: KATRINA LINTONBON. 20122109

Facebook has blocked the sharing of news content in Australia after its government drafted a law that would force tech giants to pay for content. Now thousands of Australia-based Cook Islanders can no longer see Cook Islands News content on their timelines.

Readers of the national daily Cook Islands News and other Pacific media outlets have been caught in the crossfire of a digital battle between the Australian government and tech giant Facebook.

This week, users of the popular social media platform were blocked from viewing or sharing content from news publishers.

The move was in response to a proposed law that would force tech companies such as Facebook and Google to pay news organisations for their content.

Now, Cook Islanders and other members of the Pacific diaspora in Australia who use the popular social media and content sharing platform to access and share their news are looking at alternative ways to stay connected.

“Facebook’s blackout has affected the very communities that it originally purported to support,” said Caroline Etches, who lives in Brisbane with her partner and two children.

Currently, users in Australia are prevented from sharing Cook Islands News articles and receive a notice that reads: “This post can’t be shared: In response to Australian government legislation, Facebook restricts the posting of news links and all posts from news Pages in Australia.”


A Facebook screenshot taken by a user in Australia after attempting to post a CI News article. 21021807

Cook Islands News publisher John Woods described Facebook’s actions as “appalling”.

“While I sympathise with media outlets who may feel providers like Facebook are depriving them of revenue by re-presenting copyrighted news without consent or a payment regime, it is counterproductive and morally wrong to disallow media outlets to supply their own followers and subscribers news and information that both parties expressly want.”

While Facebook took a hard line and placed the restrictions on its users, on the same day Google took a much different route and announced a three-year agreement with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to pay for the publisher’s news content.

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