Daily News Roundup

February 18, 2021




Facebook has responded to a proposed new law by banning Australian users from reading or sharing news on its platform.

The stunning decision was made in retaliation to Australia’s proposed new Media Bargaining law, with the federal government pushing forward with a plan to force social media giants to pay for news content.

Facebook and Google both initially responded with fury, with Google threatening to pull its search engine from the country during an inquiry in January.

Now, Facebook’s bombshell decision means Australian news publishers will no longer be able to share stories on Facebook, and international news won’t be visible or able to be shared by local Facebook users, while overseas Facebook users also won’t be able to read or share Australian content.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has come out swinging this morning, telling the ABC Facebook needs to “think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and standing”.

“They’re effectively saying, on our platform, there will not be any information from organisations which employ paid journalists, which have fact checking processes, editorial policies,” he said.

“They’re effectively saying any information that is available on our site does not come from these reliable sources.”

He doubled down on those comments during an interview with 2GB, but said while the bombshell was worrying, he believed both Facebook and Google would remain in Australia.

International media organisations have also reacted to the stunning development, with the BBC, CNBC, the New York Post and the Financial Times just some of the global sites to have reported on the news.

Reset Australia, a global initiative working to counter digital threats to democracy, also condemned the call.

“Facebook blocking news in the middle of a pandemic, when accurate information is a key plank of the public health response really tells you all you need to know about how much Zuckerberg cares about Australian society and cohesion,” executive director Chris Cooper said in a statement.

“Facebook is telling Australians that rather than participate meaningfully in regulatory efforts, it would prefer to operate a platform in which real news has been abandoned or de-prioritised, leaving misinformation to fill the void.

“The difference between information and misinformation and the value of the news to the functioning of democracy doesn’t matter to Facebook. Regulation is an inconvenient impost on their immediate profits – and the hostility of their response overwhelmingly confirms regulation is needed.”

He added that Facebook was already rife with misinformation, and that it would likely increase now.”

News.com.au readers have also shared their outrage over the move, with one labelling the tech behemoth “FaceBully” while another described it as “bullying at its finest”.

Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton defended the shock call in a lengthy statement.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” he wrote.


The Duke of Edinburgh has been taken to hospital after feeling “unwell”, according to Buckingham Palace.

The 99-year-old was taken to the King Edward VII Hospital in London on Tuesday evening.

The Palace said in a statement that Prince Philip’s admission was “a precautionary measure, on the advice of His Royal Highness’s Doctor, after feeling unwell.”

“The Duke is expected to remain in hospital for a few days of observation and rest,” the statement added.

Doormen stand at the entrance to King Edward VII hospital in central London where Britain’s Prince Philip was admitted on February 17, 2021. 

It is understood that the royal travelled by car and it was not an emergency or a case of COVID-19.

The Queen, 94, remains at Windsor, where she has been since Christmas, with the royals skipping their usual winter trip to their Norfolk home in Sandringham because of the pandemic.

The couple were among the first in the UK to receive their first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at Windsor Castle in January.

The Duke of Edinburgh is due to celebrate his 100th birthday on June 10.

Philip was flown by helicopter from Norfolk to the same hospital just over a year ago in December 2019, for treatment for a “pre-existing condition”.

Buckingham Palace would not go into details about his ailment or the nature of his treatment at the time.


Television host Andrew O’Keefe has been an involuntary inpatient at a Sydney hospital since allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, a court has heard.

The 49-year-old was charged with common assault after NSW Police were called to a unit at Randwick, in the city’s eastern suburbs, in late January.

His lawyer, Kara Greiner, today handed a letter to Waverley Local Court indicating Mr O’Keefe is being treated at Prince of Wales Hospital.

Magistrate Ross Hudson, citing the letter, said Mr O’Keefe had been an involuntary patient there since January 30.

Ms Greiner told the court at the next hearing in April Mr O’Keefe would apply to have the matter dealt with under mental health legislation.

However, she agreed an “indicative” plea of guilty could be noted, in the event of the application failing.

“There’s a dispute as to the facts,” Ms Greiner said.

According to court documents, Mr O’Keefe allegedly assaulted haematologist Orlee Lavee.

He didn’t appear at the last court mention of the case two weeks ago.

After that mention, a different lawyer, Claudette Chua, told the media he was “not the aggressor” and claimed Dr Lavee would have “a lot to answer for”.

Mr O’Keefe has most recently hosted The Chase Australia on the Seven Network.

After he was arrested, a statement by Seven said the company was “very concerned” to read reports about the incident, given its 17-year relationship with Mr O’Keefe.

The statement said he was no longer with the network.

“The Chase Australia is not currently in production,” the statement, published at the beginning of February, said.

“Production will resume soon and a decision about who will host future series is still to be made.”

Mr O’Keefe was a co-founder of domestic violence charity White Ribbon.

The case will return to court on April 20.

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