National Post (Latest Edition)

Feud rages on between australia, Facebook

- Byron Kaye

Sydney • Australia’s government pledged a publicity campaign for its rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday — but not in Facebook advertisem­ents, as a feud continues over the social media giant blocking news content from its platform in the country.

Facebook Inc.’s abrupt decision on Thursday to stop Australian­s from sharing news on its platform and strip the pages of domestic and foreign media outlets also blacked out several state government and emergency department accounts, drawing furious responses from lawmakers around the world.

Hours before Australia began inoculatio­ns with the Pfizer/biontech vaccine, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government would embark on a wide-ranging communicat­ion campaign, including online, to ensure vulnerable people turned up for a shot.

But a ban on health department spending to advertise on Facebook would remain in place until the dispute between the Big Tech company and Australia — over a new law to make Facebook pay for


news content — was resolved.

“On my watch, until this issue is resolved, there will not be Facebook advertisin­g,” Hunt told the Australian Broadcasti­ng Corp. “Basically you have corporate titans acting as sovereign bullies and they won’t get away with it.”

Since the news blackout, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said he would talk with Facebook about its move over the weekend. On Saturday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Facebook had “tentativel­y friended us again” without giving further details.

Morrison got an injection on Sunday to publicize the program, saying the country would use “all the communicat­ion mechanisms available to us to reach people” without commenting specifical­ly about Facebook advertisin­g.

Hunt said the authoritie­s would use every channel to encourage Australian­s to get vaccinated, including messages on foreign language broadcaste­r SBS, but “there is the capacity to do paid advertisin­g (on Facebook) and that element is not on the cards ... for now.”

Frydenberg’s office did not immediatel­y respond to Reuters requests for comment on Sunday.

A Facebook representa­tive said in an email that the company was “engaging with the Australian Government to outline our ongoing concerns with the proposed law (and would) continue to work with the government on amendments to the law, with the aim of achieving a stable, fair path for both Facebook and publishers.”

MANILA More than 5,000 people have fled to temporary shelters in southern Philippine­s as tropical storm dujuan brought heavy rains, submerging dozens of villages, the country’s disaster monitoring agency said on Sunday.

Two regions were hit, including the country’s nickel mining hub of Caraga, with floods damaging some houses and bridges in the province of Surigao del Sur, according to the agency’s initial report.

The bad weather also prompted the cancellati­on of at least 36 domestic flights.

Heavy rains were expected to continue over Caraga and several other provinces on Monday morning when dujuan was forecast to make initial landfall over the dinagat

Islands-eastern Samar-leyte area, the weather bureau said.

Packing maximum winds of 65 km/h and gusts of up to 80 km/h, dujuan is the first storm to hit the Philippine­s this year.

The southeast Asian archipelag­o sees around 20 tropical storms annually.

 ?? ERWIN MASCARINAS / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? Residents walk past flooded houses near a river in Tandag City, Philippine­s, swollen by tropical storm Dujuan.
ERWIN MASCARINAS / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Residents walk past flooded houses near a river in Tandag City, Philippine­s, swollen by tropical storm Dujuan.

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