Facebook's conduct was reckless: Forrest

06/05/2022 - 15:30

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Andrew Forrest has offered a searing critique of Facebook following revelations about the company's negotiations with the federal government over its media bargaining code.

Facebook's conduct was reckless: Forrest
Andrew Forrest chairs Minderoo Foundation and Fortescue Metals Group. Photo: Matt Jelonek

Andrew Forrest has sensationally accused social media giant Meta of putting profit above the safety of Australians during the most recent bushfire season following a series of revelations published by News Corporation overnight.

Facebook had removed news content for Autralian users in February 2021 as the federal government sought to enact legislation that would make social media companies pay for news hosted on their platforms.

That ban lasted a week before the federal government agreed to amend its proposals.

Several government-sponsored pages were also removed amid the chaos, including fire and emergency services pages, with Facebook at the time arguing their removal was unintentional.

Reporting has since cast doubt on that claim, with The Wall Street Journal detailing whistleblower complaints submitted to the US Department of Justice and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that allege the company took down the material as a negotiating tactic.

Mr Forrest, who is currently involved in another legal action against Facebook, has since issued a statement in which he praises the federal government's media bargaining code and refers to the reports as "damning".

"For five days, Facebook sabotaged their Australian users’ ability to access crucial emergency information," he said.

"The truth now shows Facebook could have fixed their deliberate shutdown in hours."

Mr Forrest is currently suing Meta in the US state of California for a series of scam ads that used his likeness to promote cryptocurrency.

He has also involved Minderoo Foundation in collective bargaining for 18 small news publishers seeking payment under the federal government's media bargaining code.

His statement today makes implicit mention of that work, as well as his ongoing legal wranglings with Facebook.

"If this is how Facebook bargains with the sovereign nation of Australia, God knows how the smaller, independent news media businesses can ever strike a fair deal with Facebook," he said.

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