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Facebook “refriends” Australia, reverses its week-old news ban

In response to a proposed media bargaining law, FB had banned Australians from sharing and viewing news links on its site and app last week.

Social media giant Facebook has said that it will “restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days” because it was able to reach an agreement with the nation’s government.

In a blog post, William Easton, managing director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand, said, “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 minister (Paul) Fletcher over the past week. We have consistently supported a framework that will encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers.”

“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 recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them. 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.”

Also Read: Oz wants tech companies to pay for news; Google relents, Facebook does not

Last week (February 17, 2021), Facebook had taken the drastic step of restricting people and publishers in Australia from sharing and viewing news links on its platforms. The move was a reaction to a proposed media code that intended to make tech giants pay media companies in Australia for their content.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Frydenberg as saying, “Facebook has refriended Australia. Australian news will be restored to the Facebook platform. Facebook has committed to entering into good-faith negotiations with Australian news media businesses and seeking to reach agreements to pay for content.”

As per Seven News, the Australian government said that changes had been made to clarify the issues, and quoted Frydenberg as saying, "These amendments will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated."

As part of the amendments, tech platforms get a two-month mediation period before they are forced into arbitration. As per TechCrunch, “The Australian government will also consider commercial agreements tech platforms have already made with local publishers before deciding if the code applies to them, and give them one month’s notice before reaching a final decision.”

Yesterday (February 23), Seven West Media, an Australian media network that owns properties such as the Seven Network, The Sunday Times and The West Australian, announced that it has signed a Letter of Intent (LOU) to provide news content to Facebook.

“The establishment of this new partnership with Facebook is a significant move for our business, and reflects the value of our original news content across our successful metropolitan and regional broadcast, digital and print properties," said Kerry Stokes, Seven West Media's chairman. “On February 15, we announced a LOU for a partnership with Google, to provide news content to the Google Showcase product."

Google Showcase is a product from the tech giant’s general search. The publishers are compensated for particular news stories that they wish to see on this product. Google, in response to the proposed law, had threatened to pull its search engine from Australia but, instead, ended up signing an agreement with NewsCorp, Australia’s biggest media company.