A whistleblower group is accusing Facebook of deliberately blocking websites for Australian hospitals and emergency services last year as part of a negotiating tactic.
The social network owned by the Silicon Valley tech giant meta was lobbying to weaken a proposed law that required it to pay news providers in Australia when it blocked all such content from its platform in February 2021.
But the algorithm also blocked other websites, an accident the company maintained, telling AFP on Friday that “any suggestion to the contrary is plainly and clearly false.”
“We intended to exempt Australian Government pages from sanctions in an effort to reduce the impact of this misguided and harmful legislation,” said a META spokesperson.
“While we were unable to do so due to a technical error, we apologized and worked to fix it.”
However, US-based organization Whistleblower Ed alleged that it was actually a meta ploy in filings with the US Department of Justice and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, first reported on Thursday in the Wall Street Journal.
The organization said in a statement that of facebook The five-day blackout of news content providers deliberately “overblocked” local governments, health services and other sites that were providing support for vulnerable people.
The group said the intention was to force the government to dilute the proposed law.
Libby Liu, head of Whistleblower Aid, said, “This was not just an example of a corporate actor behaving recklessly.”
“Facebook deliberately puts lives at risk to protect its bottom line.”
Shortly after the blackout, Australia passed a law forcing Facebook to negotiate with news content providers, but politicians shrugged off some of the toughest proposals.