Sydney: The Australian government pledged a campaign to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine on Sunday – But not in Facebook ads, as the controversy continues over the social media giant’s blocking of news content from its platform in the country.
Facebook’s surprising decision on Thursday banning Australians from sharing news on its platform and stripping the pages of domestic and foreign media outlets blocked many state government and emergency department accounts, sparking angry reactions from lawmakers around the world.
Hours before Australia starts vaccinating the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government will initiate a widespread communication campaign, including via the Internet, to ensure that people at risk appear.
But the ban on Health Ministry spending to advertise on Facebook will remain in effect until the dispute between Big Tech and Australia. – On a new law to make Facebook pay for news content – have been solved.
Hunt told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “In my watch, until this problem is resolved, there will be no ads on Facebook.”
“Nothing has been commissioned or anything created since this conflict arose. Basically, you have corporate giants who act like sovereign bullies and they will not get away with it.”
Since the news blackout, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said he will talk to Facebook about his move over the weekend. On Saturday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Facebook had “temporarily contacted us again” without giving further details.
On Sunday, Morrison got an injection to promote the program, saying the state would use “all communication mechanisms available to us to reach people” without specifically commenting on Facebook ads.
Hunt said authorities will use every channel to encourage Australians to get vaccinated, including messages on foreign-language SBS, but “there is the ability to do paid ads (on Facebook) and that item isn’t on the cards … at the moment.”
Friedenberg’s office did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on Sunday.
A Facebook representative said in an email that the company is “working with the Australian government to clarify our ongoing concerns about the proposed law (and will continue to) work with the government on amendments to the law, with the goal of achieving a stable, fair path for both Facebook and publishers.”