Facebook to reverse Australia ban after deal with govt
Tech giant Facebook said it would restore news content to its users in Australia after reaching agreement with the government over a proposed law that will see publishers paid for stories on social media networks.
Facebook caused an uproar last Thursday when it blocked news on its Australian platform in retaliation for the new code. It spiralled into a public relations disaster for the US firm as government pages, including health and emergency services, were also banned.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg had told him the ban would end "in the coming days", after talks between the pair, adding that amendments would be made to the law.
The changes mean the government may not apply the code to Facebook if the firm can demonstrate it has signed enough deals with media outlets to pay them for content.
It was also agreed that Facebook and other platforms which would be subject to the code would be given a month’s notice to comply.
"Facebook has re-friended Australia," Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
The government has been debating the law in the Senate, after it was passed in the House of Representatives last week.
Facebook said it had been reassured by recent discussions with the government.
"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 forced negotiation," said Campbell Brown, vice-president of global news partnerships at Facebook.
"We have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers."
Google also threatened to withdraw its primary search engine from Australia, but the company has recently agreed deals with local media companies including Nine Entertainment, Seven West Media and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Critics of the Australian government’s actions say they are more the result of lobbying by Murdoch, who controls most of the country’s media, and is no supporter of the newcomers into the news market, than any real desire to fund local independent journalism.