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Facebook sabotaged Australian health sites during row with gov’t: report

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Facebook deliberately blocked access to Australian government webpages in the course of the country’s COVID vaccination drive — an underhanded move to punish authorities over a proposed law that required the social network to pay news organizations for online content, in accordance with a report.

The Wall Street Journal cited an organization whistleblower who provided documents allegedly proving that Facebook sabotaged access to webpages of hospitals, emergency services, and charities within the midst of a pandemic.

The Post has reached out to Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc., looking for comment. The corporate gave a press release to the Journal denying that the glitches were intentional.

Facebook said it never aimed to take down Australian government-run pages and that a “technical error” was in charge.

But a Facebook worker denied this, telling the Journal: “It was clear this was not us complying with the law, but successful on civic institutions and emergency services in Australia.”

Facebook was locked in a dispute with Australian authorities who wanted the corporate to pay publishers for content. In response, Facebook banned its Australian users from getting access to news pages through the social network.Getty Images

In line with the Journal, Facebook was looking for to place pressure on the Australian government after parliament voted to institute a law that required online platforms to pay publishers for content.

Facebook responded by deploying an algorithm that was intended to dam access to Australian news pages in addition to portals that were used to offer key public health services, the Journal reported.

When Facebook employees flagged management over the problem, they were met with a delayed response, in accordance with the Journal.

Facebook whistleblowers told The Wall Street Journal that the company intentionally blocked access to vital public health sites during Australia's COVID vaccination drive.A Facebook whistleblower told the Wall Street Journal that the corporate intentionally blocked access to vital public health pages during Australia’s COVID vaccination drive.Getty Images

The tactic appeared to work because the Australian government ended up approving a watered-down version of the law.

“We landed exactly where we desired to,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of partnerships, wrote to the Australian team in February 2021, in accordance with the Journal.

Facebook founder and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his No. 2, Sheryl Sandberg, also congratulated their Aussie unit, the Journal reported.

Sandberg hailed the team’s “thoughtfulness of the strategy” and “precision of execution.”

Facebook has denied that it intentionally sought to block its Australian users from public health sites.Facebook has denied that it intentionally sought to dam its Australian users from public health pages.Getty Images

Facebook’s technique to goal a broad range of pages that were classified as “news” was adopted as a way to avoid breaking Australian law, which bans platforms from allowing links to some publishers while to not others, in accordance with the Journal.

The corporate also acted preemptively to remove pages since it feared that publishers would go to court in an effort to dam it from doing so once the law went into effect, the Journal reported.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told the Journal that there was nothing nefarious about what the corporate did.

Zuckerberg sent an email to congratulate his Australian team for forcing the government to adopt a watered-down version of the law, according to the Journal.Zuckerberg sent an email to congratulate his Australian team for forcing the federal government to adopt a watered-down version of the law, in accordance with the Journal.AFP via Getty Images

“The documents in query clearly show that we intended to exempt Australian government pages from restrictions in an effort to attenuate the impact of this misguided and harmful laws,” said Stone.

“After we were unable to accomplish that as intended because of a technical error, we apologized and worked to correct it. Any suggestion on the contrary is categorically and clearly false.”

Other Western countries like Canada and america are considering similar laws that might require corporations like Facebook and Google to pay publishers for content.

News Corp., the parent company of The Post in addition to the Journal, struck a content-sharing take care of Google and Facebook in Australia last yr.

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