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QUOTES-Reaction to Facebook blocking Australian news

(Raw quotes from officials, media publishers, NGOs and the public in a breaking news situation)

SYDNEY, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Australians woke to empty news feeds on their Facebook Inc pages on Thursday after the social media giant blocked all media content in a surprise and dramatic escalation of a dispute with the government over paying for content.

Following are reactions from academics, politicians and others to the move, which included the removal of pages providing official information on the coronavirus epidemic, wildfires, weather and other important services.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, in an emailed statement:

“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.”

TAMA LEAVER, PROFESSOR OF INTERNET STUDIES AT AUSTRALIA’S CURTIN UNIVERSITY, speaking to Reuters:

“There’s been a climate the last two or three years of thinking Facebook isn’t doing as good a job of looking after people as it should and I think, whether intentional or not, also blocking emergency services websites and things like that in Australia is a really bad idea in a time of bushfires and COVID.

“Facebook is 17 years old so it’s a petulant late teenager and behaving accordingly, but when you’ve got global communication as part of what happens on your platform, you don’t get to have a strop (temper tantrum).”

MADELEINE KING, FEDERAL OPPOSITION LAWMAKER, in a tweet, referring to impacted emergency services:

“So Facebook can instantly block @abcperth, @6PR, @BOM_au, @BOM_WA, AND @dfes_wa in the middle of the #bushfire season, but they can’t take down murderous gun crime videos? Incredible. Unbelievable. Unacceptable. The arrogance.”

LISA DAVIES, EDITOR OF THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD NEWSPAPER, in a tweet:

“Well, that’s a tantrum. Facebook has exponentially increased the opportunity for misinformation, dangerous radicalism and conspiracy theories to abound on its platform.” (Compiled by Jane Wardell; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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