In what seems to be a snap decision, Facebook has shut down hundreds of pages belonging to government agencies, businesses, hospitals and various other services by deeming their Facebook pages to be “news content”. Has your business been affected?

Today, Facebook’s media bans in Australia have taken effect and it’s caused complete chaos amongst legitimate businesses and organizations. It appears that the application of the recent ban has been poorly applied and legitimate businesses and organizations have been affected as collateral damage as part of the internet giant’s attempt to avoid having to pay media outlets to use their content.

During our regular operations today, FraudWatch International has observed that numerous pages no longer have content visible in Australia. There appears to be no apparent reason for these pages to have their content blocked. At this stage, our suspicions are that somewhere on these page feeds there is a link to media content and that has caused these sites to get caught in the algorithm that has enforced these new rules.

Some of the pages Facebook have unjustly shut down are:

  • Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital
  • Bureau of Meteorology
  • SA Health
  • Queensland Health
  • Neighborhood Watch Victoria
  • Fire and Rescue NSW
  • Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA
  • Eating Disorders Victoria
  • Bowel Cancer Australia

Bambi Gordon, CEO of Neighborhood Watch Victoria told The Age, that she woke on Thursday morning to discover all her organizations posts vanished. “We have lost the main Facebook page for Neighborhood Watch Victoria. “We have noticed a lot of our smaller groups, associated with a suburb or town, are still there. But we’re not sure they are going to remain. And we cannot get any information from Facebook so we can start to plan for what the new social media landscape is going to look like. “It went down pretty much first thing. No warning from Facebook. We certainly did not believe, as we are not a media organization, it would have anything to do with us,” she said.

In a statement, Facebook said government pages should not have been impacted by the ban and it would restore the organizations that were “inadvertently affected”. Over the past hour or so, some of the health and weather pages have started to come back online.

How can I get my Facebook page content back online?

Here is a link to the Facebook Help Centre page, which details what content Facebook is banning. The sections that discuss Pages and Domains seem to suggest that a ‘Page’ that has news content on it may be impacted if a “significant” proportion of its content contains shared news and videos. In practice however, the pages we’re aware of have very little (if any) news content, which leads us to the conclusion that this ban was applied very poorly and has inadvertently affected thousands of innocent businesses and organizations.

If you pay for advertising on Facebook, it may be worth appealing to your account manager for assistance. If you are the Administrator of the Facebook page, there seems to be only one route to take to appeal this situation, and that is through a help form. This form appears to have been adjusted since the media ban and is focused on content from Australia vs the rest of the world.

Here is a sample of the form and the fields you need to fill in:

Note: To get your Facebook page URL, go to your page, and copy the URL from the address bar at the top of the browser window.
Once you submit your form, you will receive an email from Facebook Support.

You can then view the Support Inbox for your Facebook Page, which will show you the thread of your complaint and support messages.

Based on our experience with Facebook, they don’t have a great track record for responding to complaints in a timely manner, however, let’s hope that the impact this is having on innocent businesses, will mean they fix the issues promptly, so that the impact-time is minimized.
FraudWatch International will provide a further update as we learn more and as this situation unfolds.