Facebook puts critical health information at risk by blocking legitimate news sources

Like many organisations, Australian Skeptics Inc was affected by Facebook’s changes to sharing and viewing news in Australia. While we are pleased to see that our Facebook Page and past posts have been restored today, our own site content is still unable to be shared on Facebook.

Several government health Pages like Queensland Health, Sydney Local Health District and Western Sydney Health also found their content was restricted Thursday morning, yet by the afternoon they were back online and sharing critical health information. The content restrictions are being widely criticised as putting credible public health communications at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Julie Leask of The University of Sydney tweeted her concern over the timing of the Facebook restrictions, just as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is set to start in a few days time:

Maryke Steffens, Research Fellow at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, expressed similar concerns in an article on The Conversation, “Now, more than ever we need credible, evidence-based information about COVID-19 vaccines circulating on social media.”

As legitimate news sources, health departments, and science organisations were silenced, conspiracy theorists and rogue politicians who have spread misinformation in the past could continue posting. Belinda Barnet, senior lecturer in media and communications at Swinburne University of Technology, expressed in her opinion piece for The Guardian that by blocking legitimate news sources, Facebook’s past statements about stopping the spread of misinformation on the platform now seem “farcical”.

While we continue working on resolving the issue so our own site content can be shared to Facebook again, we recommend that you follow us on Twitter to see the news items of skeptical interest that we’ll continue to share there. Our weekly ASI Newsletter will also continue to summarise the latest news of interest to skeptics, so we encourage you to subscribe to our mailing list in order to stay informed.


Image credit: Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI, United States, Mark Zuckerberg F8 2018 Keynote (41793471742), CC BY 2.0

4 thoughts on “Facebook puts critical health information at risk by blocking legitimate news sources”

  1. Your completely one-sided article, because “Oh no this affects us” completely ignores the REASON behind this.

    Being billed because someone posts an article on your site is completely untenable. Why should facebook pay because someone wants to use their site for their own marketing. Does a TV station pay to have an advert in the middle of its shows? The real blame for this situation is the uninformed decision of the Australian government, failing to understand how the internet works, and bowing to the Murdoch media.

  2. No-one ever joined Facebook to get the news or the weather forecast. That they could do so is because organisations chose to set up Facebook pages with all sorts of information. This seems to have persuaded many people that Facebook is some kind of public utility with a duty to provide information to the community.
    One can only wonder at the stupidity of such people, and their current reaction.
    Having set up Facebook pages in pursuit of their own commercial interests, organisations like News Ltd had the arrogant audacity to demand payment for doing so. I thought only the Australian Government could be dumb enough to pander to them, but it seems others might be as silly.
    The Australian Government says it is brave, and standing up to the Facebook bully. In fact it is the craven servant of Rupert the Grub.

  3. Hi there, keep up the good work. I am a member of the Australia Skeptics so I get your newsletter and magazine. It seems such an uphill battle to protect and promote reason and evidence. I think your website is important so I have provided a link to your website in my website Saving Reason https://savingreason.org/. Hope that is okay. My website aims to promote science and reason and provide links to good sites such as yours (see resources in the menu). I also promote a secular, rational, scientific and ethical approach to problem solving in my blog, and write articles debunking myths and examining why pseudoscience is so attractive and persistent. I am the editor of the Australian Humanist should you wish to write an article for it at anytime. Cheers

  4. using Facebook to get news is a bit like watching an American movie to learn about history.
    we need to educate people as to where real news comes from.

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