Facebook Deliberately Caused Havoc in Australia to Influence New Law
Last year when Facebook blocked news in Australia in response to potential legislation making platforms pay publishers for content, it also took down the pages of Australian hospitals, emergency services and charities. It publicly called the resulting chaos “inadvertent.” Internally, the pre-emptive strike was hailed as a strategic masterstroke. Facebook documents and testimony filed to US and Australian authorities by whistleblowers allege that the social media giant deliberately created an overly broad and sloppy process to take down pages—allowing swaths of the Australian government and health services to be caught in its web just as the country was launching Covid vaccinations. The goal, according to the whistleblowers and documents, was to exert maximum negotiating leverage over the Australian Parliament, which was voting on the first law in the world that would require platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay news outlets for content. Despite saying it was targeting only news outlets, the company deployed an algorithm for deciding what pages to take down that it knew was certain to affect more than publishers, according to the documents and people familiar with the matter. It didn’t notify affected pages in advance they would be blocked or provide a system for them to appeal once they were. The documents also show multiple Facebook employees tried to raise alarms about the impact and offer possible solutions, only to receive a minimal or delayed response from the leaders of the team in charge.
Facebook Deliberately Caused Havoc in Australia to Influence New Law, Whistleblowers Say