February 19, 2021

The International Fact-Checking Network stands in solidarity with fact-checkers working in Australia.

Facebook has withdrawn news content from the Australian News Feed due to the News Media Bargaining Code. As a consequence of this dispute, three fact-checking organizations (along with all of Australia’s news publishers) haven’t been able to operate their pages and post content on the platform.

RMIT ABC Fact Check, Australian Associated Press (AAP) and the Agence France-Presse (AFP) are verified signatories to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles and have been deeply impacted by Facebook’s action.

Two of the three are members of Facebook’s Third Party Fact-Checking Program, but this fact did not spare them from being caught in the middle of a battle that isn’t theirs. These fact-checkers can still assess the veracity of claims, videos and photos that are published on the platform, however, they have lost their abilities to distribute their fact checks by posting them on their own pages.

The news blackout has also made it impossible for Facebook users to counter misinformation by sharing fact checks on the platform.

Regardless of the reasons Facebook might have had, the International Fact-Checking Network is concerned about the harm associated with depriving Australians of access to accurate and authoritative information on the platform.

It’s a dire situation that needs immediate attention, especially because this ban extends beyond Australian fact-checkers. It deprives the country of accessing a number of other fact-checking organizations that Facebook users in Australia could rely on.

Just like other nations, Australia is struggling with a deadly pandemic. We’ve seen time and time again through more than a year of fighting COVID-19 mis/disinformation that facts can save lives.

The International Fact-Checking Network is closely following the unfolding events in Australia and invites involved parties to find a common ground to explore bringing fact-based journalism and authoritative information back to the platform, especially that represented by professional fact-checkers around the world.

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Baybars Örsek is the director of international programming at the Poynter Institute and director of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), the premier global coalition of…
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