SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Australian government promised an advertising campaign to distribute COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday – but not in Facebook ads, as a row continues over the social media giant blocking news content from its platform in the country.
Facebook Incs abruptly decided Thursday to ban Australians from sharing news on its platform and removing local and foreign media sites It also sparked 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 launch an extensive communication campaign, including online, to ensure vulnerable people come out of a shot.
But a ban on health department spending on Facebook advertising would remain in place until the dispute between Big Tech and Australia – over a new law to make Facebook pay for news content -.
On my watch, until this issue is resolved, there will be no Facebook advertising, he told Hunt Broadcasting Corp Australian. There has been no commission or decision since this dispute arose. Basically you have corporate titans acting as sovereign bullies and they will not get away with it.
Since the news broke, Treasury Josh Frydenberg has said he will talk to Facebook about his move over the weekend. On Saturday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Facebook had befriended us again without giving further details.
Morrison received an injection Sunday to publish the program, saying the site would use all the communication mechanisms available to us to reach people without commenting specifically on Facebook ads.
Hunt said authorities will use any channel to encourage Australians to get vaccinated, including messages on the SBS foreign language broadcaster, but there is the ability to place paid ads (on Facebook) and that element is not on the cards … now for now.
The Frydenbergs office did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment Sunday.
A Facebook representative said in an email that the company was engaging with the Australian Government to describe our ongoing concerns with the proposed law (and will continue to) work with the government on changes to the law, with the aim of achieving a sustainable, honest path for both Facebook and publishers.
Reporting by Byron Kaye; Edited by William Mallard
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