Facebook vs Australia

Some may have noticed that Blockwarts’ Facebook page is currently shown as having no posts at all. This happened when Facebook blocked all news sites in Australia – and used a very loose definition of “news”. Posts on these sites can no longer be seen, regardless of whether users are in Australia or not. This also prevents posting links to the site globally. Here is what we know…

What happened?

Literature is full of great stories about the battle between good and evil. Harry Potter is one such epic story – but there are plenty of others, such as Lord of the Rings. Sometimes battles play out in real life though, and sometimes it is not easy to say who is good and who is evil.

In the scale of things (to be honest) a minor such battle has been happening between the Australian Government and Facebook. When I went to check activity on the Blockwarts Facebook page on Friday, it looked weird. I couldn’t see the latest post I had made the night before about Dumbledore’s Lectern. In fact, I couldn’t see any posts. This is the screen t greeted me and any other visitor to the site – no cover photo, and no posts to be shown…

Listening to the news, I learned that Facebook had decided to block all news sites in Australia. And “news” was using a very wide definition, so the weather services were affected, as were a number of government sites, including heath sites specific to COVID-19. Facebook’s own page was ironically blocked too – and so was a number of small community sites and fan media like Blockwarts.

Why did it happen?

The Australian government is pushing for a law to regulate social media – in particular to ensure they pay a fair price to content providers for news posted on their platforms. The proposed Australian law, which would force Facebook and Google to reach commercial deals with Australian publishers or face compulsory arbitration, has cleared the lower house of parliament and is expected to be passed by the Australian Senate within a week.

However, Facebook claims the draft law is poorly written (wouldn’t be the first time that has happened) and depending on interpretation could have significant side effects. In particular, the proposed law, according to Facebook, is not clear in defining what “news” is. So Facebook decided to make a point in showing what it could cover by shutting all such sites down. They weren’t deleted, but just appeared empty to visitors and a filter was event put in place that prevented sharing of links to Australian “news” sites (including Blockwarts.org). This filter was applied globally, so regardless of location, nobody could see or share any Blockwarts’ posts on Facebook, nor post links to Blockwarts.org.

While they battle, unfortunately they seem to have forgotten the small media and community sites, who regardless of the outcome will get nothing, but are still held hostage. Any payment deals will only be with large media.

So, what’s next?

The Australian Government and Facebook seem to have reached a compromise that regulation of the sector is acceptable, but the law needs some adjustments. With that promised, Facebook has indicated willingness to reinstate all sites over the next couple of days.

But if you don’t want to miss anything, you can visit the blocked websites the old fashioned what directly in your browser. These sites, Blockwarts.org included, generally allow you to subscribe, so you will get an email notification when a new post is available. Should the situation flare up again, you’ll be covered…

While this has been going on, I’ve been busy sorting through boxes and boxes of LEGO. Still much to do, but it will be totally awesome to have everything organised at some point. But I’m sure there will be a bit of LEGO building in between, which you’ll get to see :-).

Till then, Build the Magic!

Sorting, sorting, sorting – I’m not a fan of that…

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