This Vintage Bread Slicer Wouldn’t Meet Today’s Safety Standards But It’s Fun to Watch Being Restored

Gif: YouTube

Bread slicers weren’t exactly the safest things around in the middle of the 20th century. That open blade is just begging for someone’s hand to slip. But OSHA issues aside, it’s fascinating to watch a simple, beautiful machine like this get restored.

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The 16-minute video, first spotted by Digg, was produced for YouTube by LADB Restoration, which is dedicated to restoring old machines.

LADB has videos restoring everything from vintage tobacco cutters to antique grindstones. They’ve even restored an old blowtorch. But this latest video might be one of the best yet, if only because it’s so relaxing.

The video is so calming—wordless and focused on nothing more than the task at hand—that it’s almost therapeutic.

Gif: YouTube

LADB Restoration has a Patreon with longer videos, though we admit we’re not yet paying subscribers. But given how addictive simply watching machines get restored can be, that might have to change in the near future.

Facebook Lets Users Restrict Commenting to a Small Circle of Friends

File photo of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

File photo of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Photo: Bill Clark/AFP (Getty Images)

Facebook users will soon get more control over who can comment on their public posts, according to an announcement by the social media giant on Wednesday.

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Facebook users will be able to select between three options for each of their news posts: Comments will be allowed by the entire public, comments will be allowed by just friends, or comments will be allowed by only profiles and pages mentioned in the post.

Theoretically, you can even designate a public post as something that no one can comment on if you tag a Facebook profile or page that you alone control.

Illustration for article titled Facebook Lets Users Restrict Commenting to a Small Circle of Friends

Image: Facebook

Why is Facebook adding this functionality? Facebook will probably tell you that it gives users more control. (We don’t actually know, Facebook hasn’t responded to a request for comment early Wednesday.) But the reality might be a little more complicated.

The Australian Supreme Court, for instance, recently ruled that news organizations are legally responsible for the comments left by random users under their posts. That’s not a problem in the U.S. given the different legal precedents, but it could become a problem for dozens of other countries where Facebook operates.

As a small country roughly the population size of Texas, Australia has resorted to strange methods to push back on Big Tech. In response, Google threatened to pull its search engine from down under and Facebook temporarily turned off news entirely on its platform. And while it didn’t get everything it wanted, the Australian government got enough concessions to make it seem worthwhile, leading plenty of other countries interested in its style of tech business diplomacy.

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Facebook is back operating like normal in Australia, but the company likely understands it needs to make special concessions if it doesn’t want to face tighter regulation in the future all around the world. And in the case of limiting comments, that will certainly limit engagement (the only metric Facebook actually cares about) but should also crack down on things like harassment.

We don’t know for sure that Facebook is adding this function in direct response to Australia’s recent moves, but it would make a lot of sense. Virtually every country is gunning for Big Tech’s monopoly on information here in the 21st century. And it would be wise for companies like Facebook to get ahead of regulators, even if it cuts into their bottom line.

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Heartbreaking Stories of People Who Got Scammed on Tinder During the Pandemic

Illustration for article titled Heartbreaking Stories of People Who Got Scammed on Tinder During the Pandemic

Illustration: Benjamin Currie/Gizmodo

Every social media site has scammers, but there’s something extra depressing about people getting scammed on dating sites like Tinder. Unfortunately, it happens all the time, and that hasn’t stopped with more people turning to dating apps during the pandemic.

Back in 2016, Gizmodo filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FTC for consumer complaints that Tinder users had filed about the dating app. We decided to file a new request. Some complaints were similar to 2016, but there are a few new twists.

A few common themes show up in the latest available scam reports obtained by Gizmodo, among them, many scam allegations about people claiming they’re with the U.S. military and tales of emotional exploitation. There are also several reports of people googling for a customer service number to reach Tinder for an issue with their account only to stumble onto bogus “customer service” numbers that scammers use to demand distraught people to purchase eBay and Google Pay gift cards and provide them with the authorization numbers. This is an easy scam to pull off, in part because Tinder has no official customer service phone number available and, according to the complaints, emails to Tinder frequently go unanswered.

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When we looked at the problem of scammers on Tinder back in 2016, just 27% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 said they used online dating apps and websites. That number has exploded to 75% for Tinder alone, not even including other dating sites. And while the surge of dating app use during the pandemic has had varying effects on relationship dynamics, it’s also provided scammers with more potential victims.

We’re publishing a handful of the dozens of FTC complaints about scams on Tinder that we’ve obtained from 2020 below. Some minor spelling and formatting errors have been corrected for readability. We’ve also redacted some information that would implicate innocent people in crimes they didn’t commit, most often because scammers used their name and/or likeness to commit fraud on Tinder.

“I then wired $20,000…”

Met Ben [redacted] in mid April and chatted thru Tinder then on Whatsapp. We got very friendly and we met on Skype face to face the end of April. He said his wife and daughter died in a car accident 5 years ago. He decided I should come to Sweden as he was going to buy me an airline ticket hopefully traveling in July when the border there opened up. We talked about it being a business trip so it would be easier for me to enter Sweden. I was to send first $7,000 via PayPal which I did on May 11th. He said his father passed away and I was to come look at his property. A week later Bradley [redacted] who was his International Finance guy sent me an email describing the property and value and said I would need at least 20% down. I then wired $20,000 to a Lina [redacted], at Nordea Bank on May 21. I don’t know if it has cleared yet as my bank said it would take until 6/1/20. When I email David this he said it should clear on his end in 2-3 days, which would possibly be Tuesday 5/26/20. Ben and I have been chatting twice a day up until Yesterday, Saturday. He sent me a text via WhatsApp saying what his day was going to be but he didn’t call at 2pm, my time, as usual. This morning I received an email from David asking if I’ve heard from Ben as he has not responded to him. I replied I hadn’t heard from him since the text Saturday morning. Today I found out on the internet that I could do a reverse image on a website called socialcatfish. I put in several of Ben’s photos and it came up with a match of a Stefan [redacted], who is married and has 4 or 5 kids on Facebook: About 18 pictures Ben sent to me are on Mr [Stefan’s] Facebook page. I also found that Ben was on another dating site as “Allen” in Dallas, TX at some point: This is up to date as of now, Sunday at 7:00pm. I wish I would have know about image reversing. I thought I was secure in knowing who he was when we’re on Skype. Unless he had a mask on he looked just like Stefan [redacted] pics. We even Skype with a lady Linda who he said is his Assistant for 15 years.

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“I’m not sure if that was a scam…”

So I matched with a girl on tinder and she told me she wanted me to verify my account and sent me a link and I put in my debit card info and name. This was a couple of days ago and I just realized that they took out $39.99 out of my account and I called a number which is [redacted] to get my money back. I’m not sure if that was a scam as well but I hope not. They said 5 to 10 business days it will be restored.

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I am now broke and heart broken.”

We met on Tinder. We quickly fell in love. He claimed to be a cyber agent in the military on special assignments. First he was in California. then Afghanistan. Always saying he’d be home to Chatham base “soon”. It’s been four months. He first asked for $500 dollars for food saying his debit card was frozen and bank account shut down till further notice. I believed him. After that he asked me to help him start a live business in Fortex saying he’d double my money if I gave him $10,000 dollars. I refused. He asked for money for a new phone at $1,500 dollars I gave it to him. He played with my heart and would get angry when I didn’t give him money. Saying I didn’t trust him. I thought I found the man of my dreams and from then on gave him money every time and every reason he asked. This totaled up quickly to 22,100.00. This was my savings. I can’t believe I’ve been scammed and I fell in love with an image. We never spoke on the phone. We never met, only texting. I can’t live without this money and he promised to give it back and more. Now that i know he isn’t jesse [redacted] and his phone is untraceable to me. I fear the wrist for getting my money back. There is a person that warned me because the same person scammed his mom and other woman too. But like me the other woman stays in denial thinking he’s real and that he loves us. I have the bitcoin addresses that he sent me to send him money. They were always different. I’m hoping this can help connect him to his real name. We also use hangouts and I wonder if that could trace his current location. He has my SS#, a picture of my license and passport. He knows my DOB, where I live, my post office box number, names of family members, etc. He asked for all that to start something social for our future together. He is very persuasive. I didn’t want to give him money but he instilled fear in me and made me doubt myself. I also was afraid to lose him. Now all I care about is getting my huge amount of money back and catching him because I’m pretty sure he’s doing this to many women past and present. He wants marriage and children and two houses. He is a very good liar. Says he’s been in the military for ten years. Grew up in Germany. Has an ex-wife and a five year old girl. Two parents deceased. The profile he used I was able to find and this is how I know he’s not who he says he is. He is not jesse [redacted]. The real jesse [redacted] is in the military married with a little girl. His instagram is [redacted]. This is the person the fake Jesse uses his photographs etc. I unfortunately cant come up with much more information but I really need to get my money back and save other innocent people/women from falling into this trap. This man is evil and a narcissist and obviously no empathy. He is a professional serial scammer and robber. He needs to be caught. I plan to go to my local police, my bank and whomever else I need to to work on catching this horrible person. I am now broke and heart broken. I should have known better but he is so strong and does get angry. I fear for him in real life. He still insists we will meet and I will get my money back but I don’t see how he can pull it off because he’s not who he says he is and I fear he’s dangerous.

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“Then he asked for a 100 EUR iTunes card…”

My friend Juliane met “Christopher” on Tinder. They talked a little bit, then moved to text messaging using WhatsApp on April 2. Christopher’s story: US-American who was in Berlin at the time they connected on Tinder, then was “deployed” to work as an engineer on a base in Syria. Said he needed iTunes gift card to have the IT department of his company [redacted] transfer the credits to mobile data. My friend who got scammed sent him a 15 EUR gift card even though she felt weird about the guy because his English was not native (too many grammar mistakes and unusual wording). They continued to talk for approx. two weeks, then he asked for a 100 EUR iTunes card. She did not send the card, we “googled” this scam attempt and found that others have made similar experiences. Juliane confronted him by saying that she knew he was scamming her and he sent some outraged messages back. She never sent him any vulnerable pictures or the like, so he has “nothing” he can blackmail her with, only her phone number. Other information “Christopher” sent about himself: widower, has one ten yr old child (who lives with Christopher’s mother in NY), lost wife 3 years ago in [accident], lives in Anderson SC, sent several pictures of a person claiming to be him (playing cornhole, standing on radio towers wearing a work harness)

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“I loaned him $2,500…”

My friend met a man on tinder Who went by the name of Gadsden. She then introduced me to his friend, he went by the name Ranger. We had talked for weeks and then he said that he had sold some property a few years ago and the IRS said he owed money and he said that the IRS seized his bank account and asked to borrow some money until his CPA resolved the issue. I loaned him $2,500.

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“They said they would reimburse me the $200…”

I was unable to receive a verification code to log into my Tinder account. When I contacted the customer service listing for Tinder, I was told to go to Duane Reade and buy an eBay gift card for $200. Then I was told to call the customer service number back and give them the eBay number for the $200. They said they would reimburse me the $200 if I gave them my bank account number to reimburse it to. When my mom called the customer service number, she was told the same thing. They gave her a manager to call, Mr. Albert at [redacted]. He never called her back. I am now locked out of my Tinder account because I cannot get a verification code. They told my mom that the account is banned and the only way to unlock it is to pay the money. Please help. There may be lots of people who have been scammed by this fake customer service. Tinder has no other number to call, and if you email them, they never respond.

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“They said I needed to use eBay gift cards.”

My Tinder account was hacked. Called the number from a website claiming to be Tinder. They told me that there were multiple hackers and I needed to pay for a secure connection and would be reimbursed. They said I needed to use eBay gift cards. I paid and after realized I was scammed. I have tried contacting eBay’s scam number but it just hangs up on me when I try moving forward after being promoted. I have since tried emailing Tinder with no response and don’t know if I’m still being scammed with purchases in my account because I can not get into it.

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“…he paid them $2,000…”

Consumer states that he has an account with Tinder and he had wanted to contact them, so he went on their site. He click on consumer help and got a phone number to call. He did that and was told that they will help him straighten out his issues with his account. He was told that he would first have to purchase a gift card for $500. He did that 4 times, so he paid them $2,000 in total.

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“He claimed he was in the Army Reserve…”

I met this person on Tinder an we ended up a match. We started message each other on tinder he claim he is in the military in Abilene, Texas. Then he claimed he was going to be deployed in Alaska for two months over a peace deal. We exchanged phone numbers and started texting each other on WhatsApp and then claimed he loved me and wanted my PayPal account and wanted to put money in there so he can have me buy a stream card for him to exchange on bitcoin. Then I asked him what happened about his bank account and his other document he told me he lost it during patrol. So he sent money in the PayPal and then I got scared and blocked him and he had another person texting me. He was his colleague and that if I don’t pay his money in 24 hours he was going to kill me and my own children. He claimed he was in the Army Reserve in Abilene and his name was Richard. So I blocked him and I’m scared for my kids. I ended up sending David [redacted] a $100 gift card to ease back. He tried to get in my email and the location said it was from Nigeria.

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“Scammer wanted to verify I am of age and background check.”

Bio on tinder … made contact … scammer wanted to verify I am of age and background check. IE: for secure dating that I am not a criminal. via websites date4tinder.com, date4done.com, date4tinder.xyz stating the sites are free, no charge to the CC just for verification of who I am. Scammer was persistent on getting verification code for Tinder. Scammer used 2 numbers [redacted], [redacted] and then a final # after tinder code was given # [redacted] stating for a hook up scammer seemed to be same person but sent two different pictures that were not appropriate. I canceled my CC a small charge was tried but declined by my CC co. the site was for an offer to keep your information secure I am sorry I didn’t take note of the site. Looks very professional. I was banned from tinder for my ignorance new to the tech thing. The scammer is still texting me trying to engage # [redacted]. If I can be of any help please contact me.

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“I need to get a Google Play $50 card”

I Googled contact Tinder and they gave me this number I called the number. They said I was hacked and I need to get a Google Play $50 card and then contact them and they would fix my account has been hacked in Mexico I realized they were a scammer that’s when I contacted you. They said they were affiliated with Google Play Store or Tinder.

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“I was also asked to download applications that allowed them to access my laptop and iPhone.”

I called Tinder customer support to cancel subscription. Was asked to buy three $100 Google Play gift cards and to provide the number. I was also asked to download applications that allowed them to access my laptop and iPhone. When they asked me to buy more gift cards I became suspicious and asked them to call me some other time.

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If you or someone you know is ever asked to pay money to someone they met on a dating site, it’s probably a scam. On the “Tinder Support” page, Tinder offers only a contact form and a fax number. The press email will give you this auto-response: “Thanks for your email. Unless you are a member of the media, you will not receive a response. Please use the emails below for other requests,” which include production clearance inquiries. We’ll update this post if we hear back.

Facebook Told Us to Suck It, for a Change

Illustration for article titled Facebook Told Us to Suck It, for a Change

Photo: Michael Reynolds (Getty Images)

Attention, haters: you have officially been put on notice by Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg.

This morning, Clegg unleashed a very salty, very strongly-worded rebuke to sordid charges propagated by publishers supposedly looking for a cash grab. It’s titled “The Real Story of What Happened With News on Facebook in Australia,” and reads like a closing argument in a courtroom drama—in this case, essentially accusing Australian lawmakers of allowing the media industry to pick Facebook’s pocket through a proposed law which would compel the company to pay for journalism. While I reject every assertion in this blog post, it’s nice to finally get a human on the line—rather that the unbroken chain of prerecorded denialism and we’ll-get-back-to-yous from Facebook which rarely relate in any way to criticisms at hand.

Here’s the reported version of the Story of What Happened With News on Facebook in Australia: Australian lawmakers have been wrapping up some new legislation (the News Media Bargaining Code). Specifically, it gives Australian news businesses the power to bargain over a rate which Facebook and Google would have to pay in exchange for hosting news articles in full, as excerpts, or in link form. Facebook did not care for this plan and retaliated by pulling all news links shared by publishers and users from its site in Australia. (Clegg said that Facebook had to do so to protect itself from liability.)

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But many also noted that this kind of proved the point that Facebook wields way too much power over news access online. Yesterday, the company flipped the news switch back on after lawmakers agreed to a handful of amendments. They would give Facebook and Google a month’s notice before enforcement and potentially exempt Facebook entirely if it proves that it already pays Australian media companies through alternative deals. (Google, on the other hand, struck a deal with NewsCorp to share some ad revenue and create a subscription service. Google already pays some participating publishers to give readers free access to paywalled articles in its News Showcase product. Facebook reportedly pays a select number of outlets to present their full stories in its News Tab.)

In a blog post yesterday, Facebook said it was “pleased” with the agreement, but Clegg saved a few choice words for (presumably) legislators and journalists. Claiming that the Australian lawmakers were deluded by “a fundamental misunderstanding” of how news on Facebook works, Clegg argued that Facebook actually provides news outlets a free marketing service. More to the point, what you’ve heard are lies [emphasis theirs]:

The assertions — repeated widely in recent days — that Facebook steals or takes original journalism for its own benefit always were and remain false.

Okay, depends on your vantage point. Moreover, that wasn’t really the lesson from the past week. We just learned that Australians like getting their news from Facebook.

Clegg could have left it there, but he decided to let it rip:

Of course, the internet has been disruptive for the news industry. Anyone with a connection can start a website or write a blog post; not everyone can start a newspaper. When ads started moving from print to digital, the economics of news changed, and the industry was forced to adapt. Some have made this transition to the online world successfully, while others have struggled to adapt. It is understandable that some media conglomerates see Facebook as a potential source of money to make up for their losses, but does that mean they should be able to demand a blank check?

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I’m guessing the money-grubbing failures to which Clegg refers include the dying local papers that have struggled to adapt in part specifically because they’re losing out on locally-targeted advertising revenue which is now almost entirely pocketed by Google and Facebook. Anyway, okay, we get it! Not done yet [emphasis, again, Clegg’s]:

It’s like forcing car makers to fund radio stations because people might listen to them in the car — and letting the stations set the price. It is ironic that some of the biggest publishers that have long advocated for free markets and voluntary commercial undertakings now appear to be in favor of state sponsored price setting. The events in Australia show the danger of camouflaging a bid for cash subsidies behind distortions about how the internet works.

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This is a wildly skewed metaphor; Facebook is less like the car and more like one of two radio stations that get to decide which record labels to promote. That kind of broadcast dominance has directly led to newroom layoffs through (allegedly knowingly misleading) emphasis on video. It’s also algorithmically suppressed outlets now competing for attention with fake and inflammatory sources. For a sense of how much an even playing field matters, the Pew Research Center recently found that 36% of Americans regularly get their news from Facebook. Its influence over the flow of information is so patently obvious that every few years we circle back to insisting that Zuckerberg just admit that he’s running a media organization.

Maybe Australian politicians, in needling Facebook to pay its fair share, finally struck a nerve. Or maybe the thrill of winning a pissing match against a sovereign nation has the company’s executives willing to gloat. Whatever the case may be, I sincerely hope that Facebook keeps the line of honest dialogue open.

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Facebook Promises to Let Users Share News in Australia Again After Negotiations With Government

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (right) and the Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher in the Senate Courtyard at Parliament House on February 23, 2021 in Canberra, Australia.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (right) and the Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher in the Senate Courtyard at Parliament House on February 23, 2021 in Canberra, Australia.
Photo: Sam Mooy (Getty Images)

Facebook will allow users in Australia to read and share news on the social media platform again following negotiations with the Australian government, according to Australia’s treasurer Josh Frydenberg and representatives from Facebook. Who blinked first? That’s a matter of interpretation, it would seem.

Facebook previously blocked all news sharing on the site for the past five days in retaliation for a proposed Australian law that would force large tech companies to share profits with news publishers, something called the Media Code. Google also planned to block search in Australia over the proposed Code, something that seems increasingly unlikely as the tech giants continue to negotiate down under.

Both sides in the battle have claimed victory, with Facebook saying that it will no longer be subject to a forced negotiation with publishers over paying for news, and politicians saying they’re satisfied with the “advanced negotiations” Facebook has conducted with Australian news creators like Seven West Media and the Seven TV network.

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“Well, Facebook has refriended Australia, and Australian news will be restored to the Facebook platform,” Frydenberg told reporters in the capitol city of Canberra on Tuesday. “Facebook has committed to entering into good-faith negotiations with Australian news media business in seeking to reach agreements to pay for content.”

“I have no doubt that so many other countries are looking at what is happening here in Australia because of this innovative Code the [Prime Minister Scott] Morrison government is now pursuing, so Facebook and Google have not hidden the fact that they know that the eyes of the world are on Australia. And that is why they have sought to get a Code here that is workable,” said Frydenberg.

But Facebook is positioning this as a win for the social media giant, naturally, making it sound like the government blinked first.

“After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers,” Campbell Brown, vice president of Global News Partnerships at Facebook, told Gizmodo over email.

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“We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation,” Brown continued.

“It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally, and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook,” said Brown.

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Facebook did not elaborate on how quickly news pages will be restored but a test by Gizmodo revealed that users still can’t post news. Anyone who tries to post a link to a news site receives a message that reads, “In response to Australian government legislation, Facebook restricts the posting of news links and all posts from news Pages in Australia. Globally, the posting and sharing of news links from Australian publications is restricted.”

Illustration for article titled Facebook Promises to Let Users Share News in Australia Again After Negotiations With Government

Screenshot: Facebook/Gizmodo

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Frydenberg’s office published a blog post on Tuesday going into more detail about what changes they’ve floated to the Media Code that will be more palatable to Facebook’s interests:

  • a decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses;
  • a digital platform will be notified of the Government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification;
  • non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and
  • final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.

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Not a bad job, from the Australian government’s point of view. They asked for the moon, and got half of it. The question becomes whether this deal actually helps publishers in Australia or if the money only goes to guys like Rupert Murdoch and his media empire.

Murdoch was the main driver behind the Media Code, so we can probably bet who will actually benefit from this new scheme. But good for you guys. Way to win one for the little guy. Or, the slightly smaller guy, as it were.

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Facebook Accidentally Blocks Its Own Page in Australia Following News Ban

File photo of Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg from 2018 in San Jose, California.

File photo of Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg from 2018 in San Jose, California.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Facebook blocked dozens of charity groups, nonprofit organizations, and even random big box retailers in Australia late Wednesday (early Thursday, local time), a move that appears to be collateral damage from Facebook’s ban on news in the country. Facebook even briefly blocked its own page in Australia, according to multiple reports and confirmation from a Facebook spokesperson.

Facebook blocked all “news” content from being distributed on its platform in Australia on Wednesday over a decision by the federal government to potentially implement new rules that would force big tech companies to negotiate with news outlets and pay for news content. Facebook says the proposed rules are an attempt, “to penalize Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for.”

Organizations that were swept up in the ban on Thursday include the Council to Homeless Persons, the Kids Cancer Project, and the state governments of Tasmania and South Australia, according to a list compiled on Twitter by Australian journalist Kevin Nguyen.

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It appears the Facebook page for the government of South Australia has been restored in Australia, along with Facebook’s own page, but the content of many others it still inaccessible, including the page of Tasmania’s government.

Facebook’s ban on news in Australia, from homegrown newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian to international websites like Gizmodo, is a retaliatory move that will likely grind the website down over time.

Australian users who tried to share news content on Thursday local time were met with a red-letter notice at the bottom of their unpublished post that reads, “Something went wrong. We’re working on getting it fixed as soon as we can.” The Facebook notice does not mention the tech giant’s current battle with the Australian government.

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Illustration for article titled Facebook Accidentally Blocks Its Own Page in Australia Following News Ban

Screenshot: Facebook

When reached for comment over email, Facebook didn’t admit that it had inadvertently banned non-news pages, let alone its own page, but said that if it had made a mistake, those pages would be restored soon.

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“Government Pages should not be impacted by today’s announcement. The actions we’re taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content,” a Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo over email.

“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. However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted,” the spokesperson continued.

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Some of the organizations and businesses caught up in the Facebook ban were particularly bizarre, including Harvey Norman, an Australian big box retailer similar to Best Buy in the U.S. The Women’s Rugby League was also blocked, though men’s sports in the country seemed to be unaffected.

Government health care organizations were also blocked in Australia, including Western Sydney Health, South Australia Health, and the Sydney Local Health District. Australia is currently ramping up its plan to vaccinate millions of people for covid-19, something that could seemingly be hampered if vital health care organizations are unable to distribute information to citizens.

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Several non-government charity organizations like the anti-homelessness group Sacred Heart Mission were also blocked, along with other public services like the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services. The latter provides crucial updates during fire season that can mean the difference between life and death.

Australia’s satirical news site The Chaser was banned before being restored on Thursday and the comedy group naturally made a joke about the ban after it got access to its page again.

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Illustration for article titled Facebook Accidentally Blocks Its Own Page in Australia Following News Ban

Screenshot: The Chaser/Facebook

Google previously threatened to cut off all searches in Australia if the federal government went forward with its plans, something that Prime Minister Scott Morrison didn’t seem too concerned about, saying last month “we don’t respond to threats.” Morrison later pointed out that he’d been in discussions with Microsoft and hinted that Bing was a perfectly acceptable alternative to Google.

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But Google appears to have come to the negotiating table in recent days, even if it would rather not look like it was folding to pressure. Google signed agreements with large publishers in Australia this week, including own with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which was one of the biggest proponents of Australia’s proposed “Media Code.”

What does the future hold for news content in Facebook down under? That’s anyone guess. Facebook has previously said that only 4% of content on the platform in Australia contains links to news. But even if that’s true, users will likely get frustrated with their inability to simply share links to news articles that they find interesting.

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If you can’t do basic sharing on a platform like Facebook it’s hard to see why users would put up with what appears to them like simply a bug. But, then again, anyone who’s still on Facebook in 2021 is already putting up with a lot of garbage.

Update, 1:15 a.m. ET: Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has released a statement calling Facebook’s actions “as arrogant as they were disappointing.” The statement was released on… Facebook:

Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing. I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues.

These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech 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.

We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code. Just as we weren’t intimidated when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.

I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian Government, as Google recently demonstrated in good faith.

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What happens next? Well, it looks like Australian Facebook users are going to be without news content for quite a while until one side blinks. Morrison doesn’t appear to be backing down.

Facebook Bans News in Australia and I Feel Fine

Illustration for article titled Facebook Bans News in Australia and I Feel Fine

Photo: Brendan Smialowski (Getty Images)

As lawmakers in Australia continue to insist on moving forward with legislation to force Facebook to pay publishers for the right to link to their stories, the social network has decided to block users in the country from sharing or viewing news articles on its platform.

On Wednesday, Facebook explained in a blog post that, in its view, Australia’s proposed law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content.” The root of the misunderstanding? Australian lawmakers think Facebook gives a shit about news on its platform.

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According to the statement, news accounts for “less than 4% of the content” people see on their Facebook feed and the law requiring payments to publishers “seeks to penalise Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for.” In Facebook’s view, it’s the publishers who should be thankful for the “approximately 5.1 billion free referrals” Facebook directed their way in the last year—a service that the social network estimates is “worth an estimated AU$407 million.”

The proposed legislation is still in the process of being ironed out, in part, because Facebook and Google have been in direct discussions with the government over the past few weeks. Lawmakers’ attitudes have been that these two tech behemoths have gobbled up ad revenue that would have gone to news organizations in years past while the public has come to rely on the platforms as portals to the news. Google’s resistance to the legislation has garnered the most attention as it has threatened to pull out of Australia completely and leave its citizens with nothing but Bing.

But Google seems to be coming around. Just this morning, it was announced that the search giant has made a deal with its long-time nemesis Rupert Murdoch guaranteeing the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and others “significant payments” for the right to share its stories. Earlier this month, Google made deals with at least seven of Australia’s top publishers to include their content in its News Showcase feature.

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It’s impossible to say whether Facebook banning the sharing of news content in Australia is good or bad. As with all things related to Mark Zuckerberg’s company, unintended consequences are inevitable. It’s possible that the loss of Facebook as a news resource will encourage users to get outside their bubble and look for news elsewhere. Facebook’s claims that news publishers profit from links in the newsfeed ignores the fact the company has worked to train users to view its social network as a destination for news. The company has also worked directly with publishers to tailor content for the platform, the most infamous example being the “pivot to video” debacle.

But the real-world consequences that have followed the pervasive sharing of disinformation on Facebook may have made news content less desirable for the company’s executives. And now we’re apparently going to get a chance to see what a news-free Facebook is like.

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Australia’s population is just shy of 26 million people while Facebook has about 1.85 billion daily active users globally. I’m sorry that my Australian readers have to be the guinea pigs in this experiment but that seems like a nice sample size to find out what effects follow the death of news on the platform. I’m optimistic!

Of course, if Australian publishers start losing a ton of money, they’ll be pressuring those same lawmakers to head back to the negotiating table with Facebook. For now, it’s just nice to see some kind of progress in the debate over the relationship between news and social media.

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