A group of whistleblowers has accused Facebook of deliberately blocking websites of Australian hospitals and emergency services as part of last year’s negotiation tactics.

The social network, owned by technology giant Silicon Valley Meta, lobbied to weaken a proposed law requiring it to pay Australian news providers when it blocked all such content from its platform in February 2021.

But the algorithm also blocked other websites from what the company said was an accident, telling AFP on Friday that “any assumption to the contrary is categorically and obviously untrue.”

“We intended to release the pages of the Australian government from restrictions in an attempt to minimize the impact of this wrong and harmful legislation,” a Meta spokesman said.

“When we failed to do it as intended due to a technical error, we apologized and worked to correct it.”

However, the US-based organization Whistleblower Aid claims that this is in fact metaphysics in the documents to the US Department of Justice and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, reported for the first time in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

The organization said in a statement that the five-day shutdown of Facebook news content providers had deliberately “blocked” local authorities, health services and other sites that provide support for vulnerable people.

The intention was to force the government to weaken the proposed law, the group said.

“This was not just an example of the reckless behavior of a corporate actor,” said Whistleblower Aid boss Libby Liu.

“Facebook deliberately put life at risk to protect the end result.”

Shortly after the power outage, Australia passed a law forcing Facebook to negotiate with news content providers, but politicians diluted some of the toughest proposals.


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