Australia’s health department has pulled advertisements from Facebook, announcing it has no further plans to advertise on the platform going forward.
The move is the latest escalation in the spat between Australia and Facebook, over the Australian government’s plans to introduce the New Media Bargaining Code, which will force tech giants to pay for content they link to from Australian publishers.
Facebook blocked all Australian news content on its platform last week in response to the bill. At the same time Australian government agencies — the state health department among them — charity organisations and community pages were also banned. Some pages were later restored.
Bad timing for Facebook
The ongoing block on news sites and the brief block on the health department couldn’t have come at a worse time for either parties. Australia is stepping up its COVID-19 vaccination roll-out and has reportedly invested $20m in attempts to inform the public about its efforts and combat anti-vaccination conspiracy theories.
In light of the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going anywhere soon, Facebook’s decision to block content Down Under looks more than a little ill-thought-out.
Australian health minister Greg Hunt told Al Jazeera on Sunday that his department would still fund the public information campaign, just not on Facebook.
“All of our funds will be used,” said Hunt. “We will continue to post on that particular channel, we just won’t be boosting.”
The vaccination roll-out began on Sunday in Australia, with front-line health care workers and officials set to receive their vaccines soon.