A new report from The Wall Street Journal Thursday revealed internal Facebook messages praising teams for seemingly hardball tactics taking down pages of the Australian government, including emergency services and charities. This all reportedly happened as the country wasthat would require companies like Google and Facebook to pay for news posted to their platforms.
The report, which included documents sent to Australian and US authorities by a whistleblower, detailed how Facebook had not followed standard processes for changing its features when it began banning news in Australia a year ago. Facebook said at the time that it acted. But the whistleblower accused the company of attempting to influence Australia’s political process by exerting “maximum negotiating leverage.”
“Despite saying it was targeting only news outlets, the company deployed an algorithm for deciding what pages to take down that it knew was certain to affect more than publishers,” reported the Journal, citing documents and people familiar with the matter. Affected pages reportedly weren’t notified in advance and there was no system to appeal the takedowns.
A spokeswoman for Meta, which owns Facebook, disagreed with the Journal’s findings, noting that documents from the whistleblower “clearly show that we intended to exempt Australian government Pages from restrictions in an effort to minimize the impact of this misguided and harmful legislation. When we were unable to do so as intended due to a technical error, we apologized and worked to correct it. Any suggestion to the contrary is categorically and obviously false.”
The Journal’s report is the latest in a series of disclosures from whistleblowers who have. In one case, the Journal reported that Meta’s Instagram social network had been but failed to act. In another, a former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower, accused the company of .
Some of the earlier whistleblower documents, which were also shared with CNET and a consortium of other publications, detailed how Facebook is struggling to rein in harassment in its next big technology, virtual reality.