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Facebook accused of deliberately causing havoc in Australia over news content law

A new report from The Wall Street Journal on Thursday revealed internal Facebook posts praising the teams for seemingly tough tactics removing Australian government pages, including emergency services and charities. All of this would have happened when the country was consider a new law it would force companies like Google and Facebook to pay for news published on their platforms.

The report, which included documents sent to authorities in Australia and the United States by a whistleblower, detailed how Facebook failed to follow standard processes to change its features when it began banning news from its platform in Australia a year ago. Facebook said at the time that it had acted to avoid possible legal action. But the whistleblower accused the company of trying to influence Australia’s political process by exercising “maximum bargaining power”.

“Although it said it only targeted news outlets, the company deployed an algorithm to decide which pages to remove it knew would likely affect more than publishers,” the Journal reported, citing documents and people familiar with the matter. Affected pages were reportedly not notified in advance and there was no system to appeal takedowns.

A spokeswoman for Facebook owner Meta disagreed with the Journal’s findings, noting that the whistleblower’s documents “clearly show that we intended to exempt Australian government pages restrictions in an effort to minimize the impact of this misguided and harmful legislation.Where we were unable to do so as expected due to a technical error, we apologized and endeavored to correct it. suggestion to the contrary is categorically and obviously false.”

The Journal report is the latest in a series of whistleblower disclosures that have revealed the company’s aggressive and sometimes deceptive business practices. In one case, the Journal reported that Meta’s Instagram social network had been aware of the negative impacts on young users of its application but did not act. In another, a former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower accused the company of put profits before user safety.

Some of the early whistleblower documents, which were also shared with CNET and a consortium of other publications, detailed how Facebook is struggling to contain harassment in its next big tech, virtual reality.