Wildfire evacuees in Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) told the BBC on Thursday that Facebook’s recent news censorship is mitigating their ability to gather accurate data during the crisis.
Wildfires erupted around NWT’s Great Slave Lake on Sunday, threatening residents in Hay River, Fort Smith and Yellowknife. Though wildfires in Canada have burned out of control for most of the year, the Canadian military reportedly did not arrive in NWT until Tuesday, and residents of Yellowknife were not told to evacuate until Thursday.
Some residents in the area expressed frustration with finding accurate, up-to-date information regarding the threat online, blaming Facebook’s news censorship for creating a potentially life-threatening problem, according to the BBC. (RELATED: Meta Officially Begins Process Of Ending News Access For Canadians)
“Instead we have to screenshot parts of a news story and post that as a picture,” local resident Poul Osted told the outlet. “Oftentimes this means you don’t get the whole story, or have to go searching the web for verification. … The state of the highway system is one example.”
Locals were trying to find out whether it was safe to drive out of the wildfire zones, but were unable to share that information online, according to the BBC. A spokesperson for the tech company declined to comment to the outlet on the ban.(RELATED: Crazy Video Shows Extreme Impact Of Canada’s Wildfires On US)
Facebook parent company Meta began blocking access to news for its citizens in August after the country passed legislation regarding deals with publishers. The social media giant called the ruling “fundamentally flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work,” the BBC reported.
Officials also rely on Facebook to share updates on evacuation procedures, as well as warnings and alerts about the wildfires. But the legislation has forced both residents and authorities to find new ways to disseminate this life-saving information. With more than 1,000 wildfires burning across Canada at the time of writing, it is unclear why the Canadian government would continue its censorship campaign, given the fuel it adds to the already horrific crisis.