The collateral damage of Facebook’s news ban is starting to be totted up, as services offering help to the vulnerable are asking why they were unplugged.
Not too long ago, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher fronted the media to articulate the government’s response to Facebook pulling the plug on Australia (which was largely the Coalition’s fault). As it turns out, Fletcher is as concerned as many of us, believing that the ban went too far, wantonly deleting non-news organisations in the act of limiting the spread of Australian news.
Fletcher said: “I have spoken this morning to the operator of North Shore Mums, which is a well-known Facebook page in my electorate. Like a number of similar services around Australia, her page has been blocked, which is a significant concern.”
However, there is a whole raft of meaningful and important services that were caught up in the ban, with the ABC’s Kevin Nguyen caretaking a growing thread on Twitter.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) were hit, with Secretary Sally McManus writing: “So @Facebook has blocked access to our website. We are not a news organisation. Australian workers can not now find out about their rights at work via @Facebook. This is disgraceful and needs to be reversed immediately.”
Elsewhere, Women’s Legal Service Tasmania was prohibited, as was 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. So it went for the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition, the youth-centric arm of Women’s With Disabilities Australia, and domestic violence service, Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre.
The account for Queensland Health, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Fire and Emergency services in WA, Western Sydney Health, South Australia Health, the Council of Homeless Persons, Mission Australia, and NSW Fire and rescue, and the account for Victorian Labor were all shut down.
Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be any thematic link, beyond pages that may have shared news articles once. Pages as disparate as Monash University, Queensland Rugby League and Harvey Norman all falling under Zuckerberg’s shadow.
But wait, there’s more. Save the Children, the Queensland Council of Social Services, The Kids Cancer Project, The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne were all slated for destruction.
As Nguyen noted, small sites run by bloggers were also uniformly erased. He also noted that “The most absolute random one I’ve seen has been this Dairy Farm in regional Victoria. This one alone has dispelled any explanation I may have had for why certain pages may have been caught up in the Facebook ban.”
Facebook has since promised to restore the non-news pages inadvertently caught up in the initial ban.