Health department no longer advertising on Facebook

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday February 22, 2021

(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The commonwealth Department of Health will not roll out paid advertising campaigns on Facebook until the social media giant lifts its ban on news content in Australia, according to Health minister Greg Hunt.

It has come just one month after the government launched a $23.9 million public information campaign across a range of platforms, including social media, to ease Australians’ concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking on ABC’s Insiders on Sunday, Hunt said he spoke to his office last week to ensure that advertising would cease.

“I will check that my department is not, but on my watch, until this issue is resolved, there will not be Facebook advertising,” he said.

“I will reaffirm that with the secretary today, but we’ve already done that with my office, and I reaffirmed yesterday that there has been none commissioned or instituted since this dispute arose.

“I’ve got to say, basically you have corporate titans acting as sovereign bullies and they won’t get away with it.”

On Thursday morning Facebook hit back at the government’s proposed media bargaining code — which would force the company to pay Australian publishers for news content on the platform — by removing all news content in Australia. The ban initially impacted a number of government pages on the platform, including official health and emergency services pages.

Critics of the news ban have raised concerns that it could lead to a rise in anti-vaccine messaging and misinformation being spread across the site, ahead of the roll out of Australia’s vaccination program on Monday.

Over the weekend thousands of people attended anti-vaccination protests across the country. Hunt told Insiders that while he and his department “reject and condemn some of the absolute myths” that a small number of people perpetuate, they are more focused on addressing the concerns of people who are hesitant about the vaccine.

Read more: Government agencies’ Facebook posts restored after being caught in news-ban crossfire


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