The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook deliberately used an extensive algorithm to block news in Australia last year, affecting pages for charities, emergency services and hospitals.
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Facebook used an algorithm that it knew would affect pages other than publisher pages in Australia before passing a law that would force platforms to pay news for content, according to the Wall Street Journal.
As a result, pages of the Australian government and health services were removed when the country began to deploy its vaccination program against Covid, the magazine reported.
The magazine reports that the social media giant did not notify the page in advance and that the removal was started before the appeal process was ready – a break from the usual procedure, the report said.
Whistleblowers have provided documents and testimony to US and Australian authorities alleging that Facebook wants to put maximum pressure on Australian lawmakers who vote by law.
Facebook told the WSJ that the move was not a negotiation tactic and that it used a broad algorithm because the law does not specify what is considered news.
“The documents in question clearly show that we intended to free the Australian government pages from restrictions in an effort to minimize the impact of this erroneous and harmful legislation,” Facebook spokeswoman Andy Stone said in a statement to the Journal. “If due to a technical error we were unable to do so as expected, we apologized and worked to correct it. Any suggestion to the contrary is categorical and clearly false. “
The report details actions taken by Facebook before passing new legislation that would force digital platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay for news to show that content in news feeds or in search results.
Both Facebook and Google opposed the law and threatened to remove some services or features from Australia, but eventually reached commercial or government agreements.
Read the full report in the Wall Street Journal.