Facebook news ban’s shock casualties include Australian weather, emergency, business and government pages

Facebook’s news ban is already in effect on Thursday morning and it’s not just news sites that are being blocked from sharing content, the ban is also impacting a variety of non-news pages, including Facebook’s own.

News.com.au has confirmed this morning Facebook is “using technology” to enforce the ban but the company’s local representatives don’t yet know why these other sites are being caught in the ban.

A Facebook spokesperson told news.com.au “any pages that are inadvertently impacted we’ll look to reverse”.

“Government Pages should not be impacted by today’s announcement. 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.”

Until Facebook reverses the damage, Australians are being denied access to information from health and support services and their governments, with some branding the breadth of the ban as “cruel”.

Among the pages that are now showing a message reading “no posts yet” as of Thursday morning, is Facebook’s own.

Australians who want access to reliable weather information from the government department they pay to provide it won’t be able to find any on Facebook today.

The Bureau of Meteorology has also been blocked in the ban, with all its posts scrubbed from Facebook.

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Facebook has been trying to keep COVID-19 misinformation off its site, but government health departments have been caught in the crossfire.

Queenslanders looking for reliable information from their local health authorities won’t find it on Facebook: The Queensland Health page has been scrubbed of all posts.

SA Health and the ACT government’s page are also empty, and the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services has been scrubbed too.

The national sexual assault, domestic family violence counselling service 1800 RESPECT has also been hit in the wide-ranging ban.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said a decision to ban the ACTU from posting is “disgraceful and needs to be reversed immediately”.

It’s unclear what exactly two random biking-related pages have done to raise Facebook’s ire, but they’ve been hit by the ban too.

Harvey Norman has also been caught in the ban, though its biggest rival JB Hi-Fi has not.

Looking for a laugh? Look somewhere else.

Popular satire sites offering a lighter look at the news such as The Betoota Advocate, The Chaser and The Shovel have all been scrubbed too.

The Betoota Advocate’s editor Clancy Overell told news.com.au today was a day they had feared, but prepared for.

“There was an element of expecting this, the tap was always going to get turned off at some point, today’s the day.

“We thought we’d get a bit of a warning, when it’s time to call a bluff it’s time to call a bluff and the government has been caught out.”

Mr Overell worried about the potential impacts the ban will have, particularly on rural and regional publications like his that have already been impacted by severe cuts in the past year.

“The first consumers of news to miss out are rural, it’s a weird time where rural Australia are forced to get their news from the same places as someone living in Surry Hills or West End. “There will be no local news and it’s a big fear for bushfire season and the like, rural media has really taken a hit, not just because of today’s changes,” Mr Overell said.

He said the site has prepared by spreading over different social media platforms and producing podcasts across a number of streaming services.

While no longer allowed to post on Facebook, Mr Overell said Betoota had an “engrained audience” that came to direct to its website and followed its newsletter.

“It was always in the back of our minds, the fear the music would stop and we wouldn’t have a chair to sit on,” he said.

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