Bringing Facebook to book Down Under

The embattled web giant struggles to suppress crackpot theories as coronavirus keeps its moderators off work and Australian courts consider a colossal privacy fine

The world's social media giants are increasingly coming under fire as the coronavirus outbreak has revealed that their automated AI content systems are largely unable to tell fake news from factual. The huge armies of underpaid, overworked human moderators who normally keep the social networks relatively well-policed mostly cannot work from home due to the web giants' own internal rules, intended to protect user privacy.

Even as crackpot theories and snake-oil remedies gain huge traction on Facebook, Instagram and the rest, genuine news from respectable media organisations is suppressed as spam. Meanwhile the very privacy and security backlash which has prevented the social networks from allowing remote-working access to their systems continues to unfold, as Australian authorities move against Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2014-15.

In a case lodged in the federal courts in early March, Australian information commissioner Angelene Falk alleges that Facebook committed serious and repeated contraventions of Australian privacy law because data collected by the web giant was obtained by now-defunct UK firm Cambridge Analytica and used for political profiling. Cambridge Analytica had the Trump presidential campaign among its clients.

Facebook data obtained by Cambridge Analytica included Australians' names, dates of birth, email addresses, city locations, friends lists, page likes and in some cases Facebook messages.


‘This Is Your Digital Life'. And a whole lot of other people's digital lives too

"We consider the design of the Facebook platform meant that users were unable to exercise reasonable choice and control," Falk said.

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