- To access all of your local news, visit newcastleherald.com.au directly. Our home page is updated with the latest headlines from across the region and the nation.
- You can even stay up to date by clicking here and signing up for free to our newsletters.
- If you value local journalism, support us by subscribing here
- To download the Newcastle Herald app, click here
Multiple Newcastle organisations became collateral damage in yesterday's sweeping Facebook ban on news outlets across the country.
Facebook slapped a blanket ban on the pages of Australian news providers including The Newcastle Herald and prohibited individuals from sharing news content in response to the Federal Government's proposed media bargaining code, which passed through the Senate on Wednesday night.
The code would require tech companies including Facebook and Google to pay news outlets for their content.
City of Newcastle, the University of Newcastle, Newcastle Jets, Hunter Workers, Hunter Medical Research Institute and Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper all had their Facebook pages disabled on Thursday morning, despite not being news or journalism outlets.
"The timing is unfortunate, given we are in the middle of O-Week," a University spokesperson said.
"However much of our digital and social media content for students is available on other digital platforms including our website."
Greg Piper appeared to be the only Hunter member of parliament caught up in the restriction.
The Independent Lake Macquarie MP said he hoped he had been blocked inadvertently and wouldn't take the matter personally, but said it was a "dangerous slope" once politicians' pages were taken down.
"I wonder how indiscriminate it is," he said. "If that became a thing, who do they choose?"
Beyond his own situation, Mr Piper said he did not agree with the action Facebook had taken against news outlets.
"It's very clear that social media companies have benefited greatly off the back of Australian journalism and news organisations," he said.
"This is data companies flexing their muscles and saying look how powerful we are.
"They're basically playing the bully's game.
"We've known this was an issue for a long time and now the government has introduced legislation. It should not have come to that."
Mr Piper's office contacted Facebook about the matter on Thursday and he was hopeful the page would be restored quickly.
Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton claimed in a blog post explaining the ban that "the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favor of the publishers - which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume".
Mr Easton said the proposed law "fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content".
"It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia.
"With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter."
He said there would be processes to review any content that was inadvertently removed.
Other pages that were affected by the ban included the Bureau of Meteorology, domestic violence service 1800RESPECT, national arts and social justice organisation Big hART, Queensland Health, the ACT and Tasmanian Government, Women's Rugby League, AFL Women's and even the official Facebook page.
Some affected Facebook pages, including City of Newcastle and Newcastle Jets, came back online during the day.
Hunter Workers secretary Leigh Shears said he didn't agree with the government's proposed media bargaining laws, but was "puzzled" as to why his organisation had been included in the ban.
"It's unfortunate," he said. "We identify as a not-for-profit community organisation.
"They may have just captured us because of what we share."
The workers union uses the page to highlight issues relevant to members, including industrial relations matters and law changes.
Mr Shears said his team was searching for answers about the ban, but that they were not primarily affected and had other outlets to reach members on.