Facebook intentionally used an over-aggressive blocking system that took down the Australia emergency service pages last year as a tactic for negotiation.
Social network today intends to block all news pages in Australia over a row dealing with new provider payment. Also, fire services and state health services were blocked in the period of Australia’s vaccine rollout and fire system.
Facebook says, other pages are blocked due to an honest mistake.
According to the company, Australian pages that gained leverage over the Australian government were intentionally over-blocked by the former employees backed by the Whistleblower Aid charity.
In submissions to Australian and US authorities, an employee who worked on the project said, “It was clear this was not us complying with the law, but a hit on civic institutions and emergency services in Australia.” This is based on the report by The Wall Street Journal.
A “Crude” Algorithm
The high profile row was blocked in February last year when the lawmakers were in the process of voting on a landmark bill that would have forcefully required social networks to pay the news organizations for the content they posted on their platforms.
Just the day after the primary voting, all news pages in Australia were taken down by Facebook. In some days, the government hit a deal with the tech giant and successfully lifted the ban.
According to the documents provided by Whistleblower and reported by the Wall Street Journal, the long-standing database of news organizations was no longer used by the company. Instead, the company created a new “crude” algorithm as a new provider functioning to label any page sharing 60% news content.
Internal documents also proved that the take down was already planned long before the process getting error. Whistleblower said this was not a common process to take along.
The documents stated that concerns on internal messages were risen by employees as they worried about the damage that would occur on Facebook’s reputation. These concerns invited another post, making the product manager write “Guidance from the policy and legal team has been to over-inclusive and refine as we get more information.”
Based on the WSJ report, after Australian officers decided to change the law to effectively prevent Facebook from being forced to discuss it with individual publishers, the company appreciated the staffs. Meta, the Facebook parent company, denies the whistleblower’s claims substance.
A statement was written saying the documents clearly showed that Australian government pages were exempted from restrictions to minimize the impact of harmful and misguided legislation. This way, Facebook has enormous power over information sharing, said Libby Liu, a Whistleblower Aid’s chief executive.
A former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, was also represented by Whistleblower Aid. Haugen had provided thousands of internal documents forming the basis of a Wall Street Journal series on the social media giant a year ago.
The revelation led to Facebook executives and Haugen being called for giving testimony worldwide before the politicians and regulators.