Australian Facebook users are leaving the platform after Facebook banned the sharing of news from Australian publishers.
#DeleteFacebook and #BoycottZuckerberg were trending as outraged users shared their final posts on the platform before leaving Facebook for good.
In the latest battle in the war between Big Tech and the Australian government, Facebook announced it would prevent Facebook’s 13 million monthly Australian users from reading and sharing news on its platform.
The drastic move came in response to Australia’s proposed Media Bargaining law, which would force tech companies like Facebook and Google to compensate news companies to feature their content.
For Facebook, the Media Bargaining law could become an expensive precedent that other countries could follow.
But many users, who use Facebook as their primary source of news, were outraged at the move.
Megan Bridger-Darling, former Deputy Mayor of Maribyrnong, Victoria, deleted her Facebook account on Thursday.
She told her followers they could find her on ‘Twitter, email, phone, and occasionally in the news.’
‘If Facebook won’t support our journalists, I won’t support them,’ wrote Ms Bridger-Darling.
‘I choose reliable news sources over a platform that benefits and enables anti-vaxxers, klan members, doxxers, fear-mongerers, and extremists to peddle their messages entirely unopposed.’
Another user that left the platform is Western Australia entrepreneur Jared Fitzclanrence, who said he would no longer be paying Facebook for advertising while news was off the platform.
‘I am making a commitment to immediately cease all paid advertising on any Facebook platform and to refrain from clicking on any paid advertisements,’ he wrote.
‘To all Australian entrepreneurs, I challenge you to do the same for your advertising budgets.’
More users expressed anger at Mark Zuckerberg, with one Newcastle user arguing that ‘Facebook has turned off all Australian publishers because they object to laws being passed by a democratic government.’
He also tried to persuade his Facebook friends to delete Facebook with him.
Another Australian Facebook user said he’d be leaving the platform for Reddit: ‘So Australians are now gagged on Facebook. News, satire, health service, assistance service, hospital, fire services, weather, ABC Kids, even women’s rescue services are being shut down or silenced,’ they said.
‘I’ll be over at reddits r/Australia.’
It wasn’t just Facebook news pages that got swept up in the bans – Australian government communications, like messages about emergency services, as well as commercial pages were blocked.
The Bureau of Meterology’ Facebook page, which provides essential weather updates for millions of Australians, was pulled, as well as crucial health communications pages from Queensland, South Australian and ACT governments.
Other pages include Westpac and Careflight’s official rescue helicopter pages, which provide vital information for stranded adventurers.
South Australian health minister Stephen Wade called Facebook’s restriction of vital public health information ‘absolutely unacceptable’ during a global pandemic.
‘It’s not only news sites, but health department pages that share essential Covid-19 updates, emergency services and small Indigenous community pages are affected,’ wrote Australian Director of Human Rights Watch Elaine Pearson.
‘Cutting off access to vital information to an entire country in the dead of night is unconscionable.’ In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson accepted that some pages were removed by mistake.
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has also slammed Facebook’s decision to block news sites.
‘Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,’ Mr Morrison wrote.
‘We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code.’
The Media Bargaining law appears to have rare cross party support in Australia.
Facebook argued that the law forced its hand to ban pages, ‘with a heavy heart.’
‘The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,’ the tech company wrote in a blog post.
‘It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia.’