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Facebook Prepared For Months For Aussie News Shutdown

Despite blaming a “technical error” for the blocking of vital Australian services such as hospitals, charities, and emergency services along with news pages, Facebook was ramping up towards this deliberately chaotic situation for months.

Facebook changed its terms of service on September 2, 2020, a good five months before the news bargaining code came into law in February 2021, to include the addition: “We also can remove or restrict access to your content, services or information if we determine that doing so is reasonably necessary to avoid or mitigate adverse legal or regulatory impacts to Facebook.”

Andrew Bakaj, the lawyer representing numerous Facebook whistleblowers, said the precise wording of this addition shows Facebook was planning this wide shutdown of Australian vital services.

“I think this, along with the internal communications among senior leadership congratulating one another, underscores that the scope of the take-down wasn’t inadvertent,” Mr Bakaj said in an interview.

“I think the company’s credibility has long been in jeopardy. But given the revelations that it appears they planned this so many months prior, Meta’s assertion that it didn’t know that the ban would also hit charities and health organisations doesn’t hold water. In fact, internal communications shows that it went exactly as planned. They wanted to maximise their leverage, and they did just that.

“This behaviour shows that they will do anything to get their way – even if it means extorting a nation state.”

The internal communications among senior leadership was the smoking gun that lead to whistleblowers revealing the nefarious tactics.

“We landed exactly where we wanted to — and that was only possible because this team was genius enough to pull it off in zero time,” emailed Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of partnerships mere minutes after the amended bill was approved in the Senate last February.

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg was also impressed. “The thoughtfulness of the strategy, precision of execution, and ability to stay nimble as things evolved sets a new high-standard,” she wrote.

“We were able to execute quickly and take a principled approach for our community around the world, while achieving what might be the best possible outcome in Australia,” added Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta continues to deny this.

“The documents in question clearly show that we intended to exempt Australian government Pages from restrictions in an effort to minimise the impact of this misguided and harmful legislation,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said.

“When we were unable to do so as intended due to a technical error, we apologised and worked to correct it. Any suggestion to the contrary is categorically and obviously false.”

One whistleblower who worked on the project said of the ploy: “It was clear this was not us complying with the law, but a hit on civic institutions and emergency services in Australia.”

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