Newcastle organisations caught up in Facebook ban in response to Federal Government's proposed media bargaining code

18th February 2021

Pages operated by the council, university, Newcastle Jets, Hunter Workers, Hunter Medical Research Institute and Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper appeared blank on Thursday morning, along with those of media outlets across the country including The Newcastle Herald.

However, the City of Newcastle page has since been restored after the council made contact with the social media giant.

Individual users are also unable to share news content on the social media website.

Other pages that were affected by the ban include the Bureau of Meteorology, domestic violence service 1800RESPECT, national arts and social justice organisation Big hART, Queensland Health, the ACT and Tasmanian Government, Women's Rugby League, AFL Women's and even the official Facebook page.

Facebook has said it will reinstate pages belonging to state and territory health, emergency services and the Bureau of Meteorology and some of those pages have now been restored.

Facebook took the action after the Federal Government's proposed media bargaining code passed through the Senate on Wednesday night.

The code would require social media companies including Facebook to pay media outlets to use their content.

Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton said in a blog post on Thursday that the proposed law "fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content".

"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," the post said.

"With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter."

Greg Piper appears to be the only MP in the Hunter to have been caught up in the restriction.

The Independent Lake Macquarie MP said he would hope he had been blocked inadvertently and wouldn't take the matter personally, but said it was a "dangerous slope" once politicians' pages were taken down.

"I wonder how indiscriminate it is," he said. "If that became a thing, who do they choose?"

Beyond his own situation, Mr Piper said he did not agree with the action Facebook had taken against news outlets.

"It's very clear that social media companies have benefited greatly off the back of Australian journalism and news organisations," he said.

"This is data companies flexing their muscles and saying look how powerful we are.

"They're basically playing the bully's game.

"We've known this was an issue for a long time and now the government has introduced legislation. It should not have come to that."

Mr Piper's office has contacted Facebook about the matter and he was hopeful the page would be restored quickly.

Hunter Workers secretary Leigh Shears said he didn't agree with the government's proposed media bargaining laws, but was "puzzled" as to why his organisation had been included in the ban.

"It's unfortunate," he said. "We identify as a not-for-profit community organisation.

"They may have just captured us because of what we share."

The workers union uses the page to highlight issues relevant to members, including industrial relations matters and law changes.

Mr Shears said his team was searching for answers about the ban, but that they were not primarily affected and had other outlets to reach members on.

The Newcastle Jets said in a Tweet they were aware their Facebook page was currently not available.

"We are working with Facebook to resolve the matter. We thank you for your patience."

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