Published: Fri, February 26, 2021
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Facebook flicks switch back on for Australian news after striking Government deal

Facebook flicks switch back on for Australian news after striking Government deal

The agreement was reached about a week after Facebook restricted the ability of users to view and share content of Australian and worldwide news before the legislative changes prepared by Canberra.

A proposed Australian law would force tech platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay news organisations for their content, or be sent into mandatory arbitration to agree a price.

"We're pleased that we've been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government", Facebook said in a statement, adding that it is "satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns".

It is unfathomable how Facebook can stoop so low to block pages like emergency services, food banks, etc. Paul Fletcher, the Australian Communications Minister believes that this is a major public safety issue.' He said that he spoke to Facebook to restore all these pages post-haste, and finally, Facebook conceded and restored all those blocked pages that same day.

The changes will serve to clarify how the bargaining code will be implemented and "add further impetus for parties to engage in commercial negotiations" to avoid triggering application of the code, the government said.

Final offer arbitration has also been emphasised as a last resort where commercial deals can not be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.

"The Government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days", he said in a statement.

The law is expected to be finalised in parliament this week and Facebook is believed to still be in talks with Australian media companies and the government to find a last-minute solution.

Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that the two sides agreed to amendments to the proposed legislation.

But the Australian government says the code is needed to "level the playing field" for news publishers, which have seen profits slump in the internet age.

Matt Navarra, a social media consultant, told the PA news agency that the United Kingdom faces "no immediate threat" of similar action because of the launch of Facebook News - an initiative in which the firm has paid the likes of Channel 4 News, Daily Mail Group, DC Thomson, Financial Times, Sky News and Telegraph Media Group for content. Prime Minister Scott Morrison made no secret of his anger and accused Facebook of making a decision Unfriendly.

There is no doubt that Australia has fought a proxy battle for the entire planetFriedenberg said.

The change sent publishers' traffic tumbling (though the Australian Broadcasting Company's app briefly became the most-downloaded app in Australia) and removed not just news articles but also public health and weather information.

That stance appears to have softened, and in recent days Google has independently struck deals to pay Australian publishers including News Corp. for news, rather than be forced into arbitration.

Under the model, Google said that it serves over 50 Australian titles, with more than 500 publishers utilizing the model since its release in October 2020.

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