Following Facebook's decision to restrict Australian users from sharing local and international news content on the platform, several government agencies providing critical information have also had their page feeds wiped.
News organisations, including Yahoo News Australia, had their Facebook feeds stopped on Thursday morning, but so have other integral agencies such as Queensland Health, South Australia Health and the Bureau of Meteorology.
Agencies like these provide up-to-date information on social media in rapidly evolving situations like coronavirus outbreaks and weather emergencies.
Several government agency, emergency and service sites had their news feeds wiped by Facebook until mid-afternoon on Thursday.
Weather and health Facebook pages shut down
"Facebook has removed the @BOM_au page amidst the shutdown of Australian news pages, and on a day with flooding rain in QLD and catastrophic fire danger in WA," ABC News Breakfast weather presenter Nate Byrne tweeted.
"Warnings need to get to as wide an audience as possible as a matter of safety. Shocking."
The Bureau released a statement to address their Facebook page.
"The Bureau of Meteorology's Facebook page has been impacted by the broader Facebook changes," the statement said.
Facebook has removed the @BOM_au page amidst the shutdown of Australian news pages, and on a day with flooding rain in QLD and catastrophic fire danger in WA. Warnings need to get to as wide an audience as possible as a matter of safety. Shocking.
— Nate Byrne (@SciNate) February 17, 2021
ABC Radio presenter Selina Green shared a picture of the current state of SA Health's Facebook page.
"I mean, we’re in a pandemic with rapidly changing public information...." she tweeted.
South Australia Government, ACT Government, Western Sydney Health and the Australian Council of Trade Unions are among others to also have their Facebook pages wiped.
ABC Hobart reporter Monte Boville, who tweeted about BoM losing content, also pointed out a Tasmanian business had their posts removed.
It’s not just big news orgs bearing the brunt of the News ban by @Facebook. Smaller Indigenous and community media orgs are too. Vital for getting info out about COVID, telecommunications outages and emergencies to communities. pic.twitter.com/3v5FfFkCn9
— Sarah Collard (@Sarah_Collard_) February 17, 2021
Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Sally McManus tweeted about Facebook removing content from ACTU's Facebook page.
"Australian workers can not now find out about their rights at work via @Facebook. This is disgraceful & needs to be reversed immediately," she tweeted.
Other essential organisations are also impacted, including 1800 Respect, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service and Women's Legal Service Tasmania.
Please be aware that the 1800RESPECT #Facebook page is currently down due to some changes in the platform. We are aware of the issue and our representatives are working to correct it. The 1800RESPECT service is operating as usual. 1800 737 732 https://t.co/FvWH1XNfJZ
— 1800RESPECT (@1800RESPECT) February 17, 2021
1800 Respect addressed the issue on Twitter, saying it was aware of the issue and representatives and working to correct it.
"We are aware of the issue and our representatives are working to correct it. The 1800RESPECT service is operating as usual. 1800 737 732," the service tweeted.
Facebook to reverse impacted pages
In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, a Facebook spokesperson said government pages should not be impacted by the announcement.
"We will reverse any pages that are inadvertently impacted," thee spokesperson said.
"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. However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted."
Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk addressed the situation, touching on how Queensland Health's Facebook page and BOM's were impacted.
"I think the Federal Government needs to sort this out quickly," she said.
"You cannot have vital information not getting to people when that is where they go to get their source of information. It needs to be fixed up and it needs to be fixed up today."
Emergency services impacted by Facebook move
Western Australia's Department of Fire and Emergency Service's Facebook page has been impacted, prompting strong criticism from federal MP Madeleine King.
"Incredible. Unbelievable. Unacceptable. The arrogance."
Fire and Rescue NSW is also down on Facebook.
Union Aid Abroad has also been blocked and described the debacle as "shameful".
So @Facebook has blocked Union Aid Abroad APHEDA - the global justice organisation of the Australian union movement (not a news site!). Ironic that FB's Twitter tagline is 'Our mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.' Shameful! pic.twitter.com/iEXmzwHR1v
— Union Aid Abroad (@apheda) February 17, 2021
Satire news sites The Chaser and the Betoota Advocate have also been banned on Facebook, prompting The Chaser to change their profile photo and name on Twitter to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and demand the issue to be rectified.
"Hey guys, it's your boss here. Please unban the Chaser's facebook page and also give them a million dollars. Thanks!" The Chaser tweeted.
Facebook has also banned itself on Facebook.
So Facebook appears to have banned its own page. pic.twitter.com/Pb0QdjPtEq
— Tobi Loftus (@tobiloftus) February 17, 2021
List of non-news Facebook pages which are impacted:
Fire and Rescue NSW
South Australia Government
Bureau of Meteorology
Western Sydney Health
Sydney Local Health District
The Australian Council of Trade Unions
Women's Legal Service Tasmania
WA’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services
The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity
Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA
Media Diversity AU
The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute
Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Women's Rugby League
Australian Wildlife Conservancy
Sacred Heart Mission
Council to Homeless Persons
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