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:
Three days before Australia’s vaccine rollout, Facebook also stop access to government and other websites – the very time we rely on people accessing vaccine information easily. #FacebookAustralia https://t.co/WwkzhiuUMT
— Julie Leask (@JulieLeask) February 17, 2021
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.