ACT Health, government Facebook pages restored after being blocked for several hours

ACT Health's Facebook page has been blocked, following the social media giant's news ban in Australia.
ACT Health's Facebook page has been blocked, following the social media giant's news ban in Australia.

Government Facebook pages that had been blocked by the social media giant have had access restored, after being taken down for several hours.

While Facebook had banned Australians from accessing news pages on the website in protest of the federal government's media bargaining code legislation, several non-news pages were also caught up in the ban.

Among them were the official ACT Health and ACT government Facebook pages.

ACT Health's Facebook page has been a primary communication tool during the COVID-19 pandemic, informing people of restrictions and other public health measures.

Access to the pages was restored just after midday, after they had been taken down since the early hours of Thursday morning.

Other Facebook pages including the Bureau of Meteorology, Canberra Metro and Queensland Health were also unable to be accessed.

News pages such as The Canberra Times and ABC Canberra remain inaccessible.

A Facebook spokesman said earlier on Thursday that government Facebook pages were not meant to be caught up in the bans.

"Government pages should not be impacted," the spokesman said.

"As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted.

"However, we will reverse any pages that are inadvertently affected."

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the government was aware of issues across multiple directorate directorate Facebook pages, including the ACT Health page.

"The ACT government is looking at the issue now," the spokeswoman said.

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She said if ACT Health needed to provide information to Canberrans it would update its website and provide details to local media.

She said Canberrans should visit www.COVID19.act.gov.au for all information related to the pandemic.

In a statement on Twitter, ACT Health said they would use Twitter to keep the public informed, as well as other social media channels.

"We are working with our colleagues to keep you updated on Facebook with info about COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout at Canberra Health Services," the statement said.

The ACT government's Facebook page has been wiped.

The ACT government's Facebook page has been wiped.

Media and communications lecturer at the University of South Australia, Dr Damien Spry, criticised the decision from Facebook to block access to critical information from government-run pages.

"It's true that there are other ways that people can get that information but this is essential information," Dr Spry said.

"In my opinion, and based upon the legislation that I read quite carefully, I can't see any way that government organisations could be defined as a media outlet for the purposes of the bargaining code."

This story ACT Health, government Facebook pages restored after being blocked for several hours first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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