Facebook backs down on Australia news ban after ‘constructive discussions’ with government

Source: 1News

Facebook is backing down on its ban on Australian news on the platform, after it says it held “constructive discussions” with members of the government.

Australian news outlets found their Facebook pages abruptly wiped last Wednesday when Facebook blocked the country from seeing news on the social media website.

The ban meant Australians couldn't see local or international news, while international viewers couldn't see Australian news either.

It was in response to Australia's proposed media bargaining law, which would see websites forced to pay if they redistributed news content. Facebook and Google were two companies prominently impacted by the rules.

Today Facebook and the Australian government announced the proposed law has been tweaked.

"We’re pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government and appreciate the constructive discussions we’ve had with Treasurer [Josh] Frydenberg and [Communications] Minister [Paul] Fletcher over the past week," Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton says.

"After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them."

Facebook says Australian news will be restored on the site "in the coming days".

In his own statement, Frydenburg said the tweaks will "provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way to code is intended to operate".

It includes a requirement for the government to notify platforms at least a month before ruling whether they're included in the code and that decision needs to "take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australia news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses".

"The explanatory memorandum will confirm that the code only applies to the extent a digital platform is making covered news content available through those services," Frydenburg says.

He says the changes also encourage the parties to negotiate outside of the regulations.

Campbell Brown, Facebook's vice president of global news partnerships, says it means they'll be able to "support the publishers we choose".

"Going forward, 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 says.

"It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook.”

Australia’s senate is expected to hold a final vote on the law tomorrow.