Facebook Blocks News Content Sharing In Australia

The dramatic move by Facebook comes with Australia poised to adopt legislation that would force digital platforms to pay for news content.

Facebook Blocks News Content Sharing In Australia

People across the globe cannot view or share Australian news content on Facebook. (Representational)

Washington:

Facebook blocked the sharing of news in Australia on Wednesday over government plans to make it pay media groups for content, but the move disrupted the pages of emergency services while triggering accusations of censorship.

From early Thursday, Australians were unable to post links to news articles or view the Facebook pages of news outlets from anywhere in the world.

The move came as retaliation for laws proposed in Canberra that would force social media giants to pay for news content shared on their sites.

Fire, health and meteorological services around the country were experiencing problems with their Facebook pages during several serious public emergencies, sparking angry calls for the firm to quickly fix the situation.

A Facebook spokesperson said official government pages "should not be impacted by today's announcement" and the company "will reverse any pages that are inadvertently impacted".

Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson described the block -- which has also impacted charities, Indigenous community pages and even Facebook's own page -- as an "alarming and dangerous turn of events".

"Facebook is severely restricting and censoring the flow of information to Australians," she said.

"Cutting off access to vital information to an entire country in the dead of the night is unconscionable."

Media groups and Australia's government have also raised concerns that blocking verified news sources will allow misinformation to proliferate.

Several Facebook pages that regularly promote misinformation and conspiracy theories were unaffected by the ban.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Facebook needed to think "very carefully" about blocking the pages of organisations that employ professional journalists with editorial policies and fact-checking processes in place.

"They're effectively saying any information that is available on our site does not come from these reliable sources," he told public broadcaster ABC.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)