• "Social media are a vital resource for Indigenous Australians, connecting them to community and culture." (Pixabay CC0)Source: Pixabay CC0
Indigenous news media organisations scrambling after Facebook restricts Australians from sharing or viewing any national or international news.
Sarah Collard

18 Feb 2021 - 1:13 PM  UPDATED 18 Feb 2021 - 1:46 PM

Indigenous news media organisations are scrambling after Facebook restricts Australians from sharing or viewing any national or international news. 

The social media giant is blocking Australians from accessing news content in their Facebook feeds due to a standoff with the federal government over proposed laws forcing big tech companies to pay for news content. 

Australians are now unable to share or see news from Australian organisations - including NITV News, public broadcasters, regional and remote Indigenous news outlets, and some essential community organisations. 

A number of other services have also been removed from the platform including government information sites such as state health organisations, the Bureau of Meteorology, and Indigenous health sites. 

Indigenous media outlets working in remote and regional areas are also affected and there are serious concerns vital updates on COVID-19, flood warnings and telecommunications updates will no longer be able to be shared through the platform. 

"it's actually shocking news," Tangiora Hinaki CEO of Ngaarda Media told NITV News.

She said the media giant is critical for pushing out vital information for the community news outlet based in WA's Pilbara region. 

"There is a lot of fear surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, we also live in a cyclone region so we are an emergency broadcaster. Our audience, our listeners rely on that easy access of Facebook to see those updates." Ms Hinaki said. 

Labor Senator, Malarnidirri McCarthy told NITV news that Facebook is a vital part of ensuring Indigenous communities remain informed.

She is urging the federal government to work with the social media giant to ensure news outlets can publish on the platform. 

"Information is difficult at the best of times, especially when you're in remote and regional Australia." the Northern Territory senator told NITV news.

Ms McCarthy said Indigenous people in her home state are huge consumers of social media and many check the platform for the latest updates on storms, cyclones, and health updates shared by First Nations media outlets. 

"These are the things that are being overlooked and I urged the Morrison government to fix this mess immediately.

The federal government said the drastic measures were 'unnecessary' but said the government is committed to passing the laws.

In a statement on their website, Facebook said they had 'no choice' but to restrict Australians access to news through their platform. 

"It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter." the statement read. 

"We are outraged that access to First Nations voices has been limited in this way. Never has our media been more vital than during a global pandemic - especially on the cusp of vaccination rollouts," said Dot West, First Nations Media Australia Chair.

First Nations Media Australia is urging the federal government to find a resolution for news outlets to continue using the platform. 

International advocacy group Human Rights Watch also condemned the move by the social media giant with serious concerns being raised it was restricting and censoring vital information. 

"It’s not only news sites, but health department pages that share essential COVID-19 updates, emergency services and small Indigenous community pages are affected.

"This is an alarming and dangerous turn of events. Cutting off access to vital information to an entire country in the dead of the night is unconscionable." Human Rights Watch said in a statement to NITV News. 

Where to find SBS & NITV content outside Facebook
Facebook has blocked Australian news content on its platform. Here is where you can access SBS content.