Scott Morrison is standing firm against Facebook over his government’s media code, calling the social media giant arrogant and disappointing for shutting down emergency services pages along with Australian news.
Facebook banned access to news pages across Australia in response to the proposed code, which would force it to pay local media companies for content.
The prime minister says he won’t be intimidated.
“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Mr Morrison said in a statement on his Facebook page.
“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of big tech companies, who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.
“They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.”
He has implored Facebook to continue working with the government on the code.
Mr Morrison says he regularly speaks with other world leaders on the issue of big tech, in a reminder to Facebook that he implored countries to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media.
In the sweep of news pages Facebook also shut down a raft of health and emergency services, many of which have been restored.
Facebook claimed it was left with no choice, arguing the bargaining code was poorly worded.
“As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted,” it said in a statement.
“However, we will reverse any pages that are inadvertently impacted.”
Smaller groups like the Danila Dilba Health Service, an Aboriginal organisation, were still blocked on Thursday evening.
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service says both Facebook and the government’s actions are disappointing.
“Being collateral damage in the political stoush of the rich and powerful does serious damage to our work and risks compounding the systemic discrimination that leads to marginalised people having worse outcomes in justice, health, education, and ultimately mortality,” the group said.
Another group whose Facebook page remained shut down late on Thursday was Queensland’s RACQ LifeFlight Rescue, a medical evacuation service that relies heavily on community contributions.
In a statement the group said news about its lifesaving work had “significant reach on Facebook” and it had been trying without success throughout the day to persuade the social media giant to restore its charity page.
The media bargaining code is before the Senate after clearing the first hurdle of parliament.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has lashed Facebook for its heavy-handed censorship of Australian news and information, while Health Minister Greg Hunt warned there was a risk misinformation would spread in the gaps created by Facebook.
Facebook gave the treasurer no notice of the news ban.
The company first threatened to ban news for Australians in August and repeated the ultimatum before a Senate inquiry in January.
The ban restricts Australian users and publishers from viewing or sharing domestic and international news.
Overseas users will be unable to access Australian news.
Labor supports the media code but has criticised the government’s handling of negotiations with the tech companies.
Google meanwhile is striking deals in Australia to pay for journalism.
News Corp has become the latest publisher to sign an agreement with Google.
The internet giant has already struck deals with Seven West Media and Nine Entertainment and is in talks with public broadcasters ABC and SBS, as well as Guardian Australia.
Facebook on Thursday said it was continuing its third-party fact-checking partnerships with newswires AAP and AFP, reviewing content and debunking false claims online.