Facebook to restore Australia news pages, says government | News | DW | 23.02.2021
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Facebook to restore Australia news pages, says government

The social media giant will end its news blackout in Australia after the government agreed to make changes to a new media law. The law would have made negotiations with media companies to pay for news content mandatory.

In this photo illustration ABC News reports on Facebook's news ban on Australian and International content on February 18, 2021.

Facebook implemented a contentious ban on Australian news sites over the country's new media law

Facebook will restore Australian news pages in the next few days after Canberra agreed to amend the country's media bargaining legislation, the government announced on Tuesday.

"The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days," a statement from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said, ABC news reported.

Frydenberg and Facebook indicated that the restoration would take place after reaching a compromise on key elements of a law that would force tech companies to pay media companies for news content. 

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'Facebook has refriended Australia': Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

"As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism, and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days," Will Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia, said.

'No forced negotiation'

Campbell Brown, the firm's vice-president of global news partnerships, confirmed the move in a blog post. "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," he said. 

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Facebook imposes Australia news blackout

The law would have made negotiations with media companies mandatory, and given an independent Australian arbiter the right to impose a settlement. 

The amendments to the law include that final arbitration, a process by which if a deal could not be reached, an independent mediator will pick a proposed deal to make it binding under the law, will be considered a "last resort." Additionally, the treasurer will have to offer advance notice to a platform if it is going to be included under the code. 

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Australia and the social media giant have been locked in a standoff for more than a week after the introduction of the legislation, which challenged Facebook and Google's dominance in the news content market. 

Facebook sparked outrage last week after blacking out news for its Australian users, a move that also impacted a series of non-news pages such as cancer charities and emergency response services.

The compromise means that Facebook and Google, the main targets of the law, are unlikely to be penalized for shutting down the pages. 

 "We're pleased that we've been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government and appreciate the constructive discussions we've had," said Easton.

The Senate was set to debate the amended legislation on Tuesday. 

dvv, lc/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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