- Facebook has restored news content for its Australian audience.
- The move comes after a weekend of negotiations with the government over its proposed media code.
- The new amendments have “satisfied” Facebook, according to the company executive Campbell Brown.
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After a few days of negotiations, Facebook has announced it will restore Australia’s access to news pages following changes in the country’s media code.
At issue was a provision in the country’s proposed News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code that would force platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay news sites for their content. It would also require the platforms to give advance notice about shifts in their algorithms.
“It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses – it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection, and a sustainable media landscape,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said when the legislation was introduced last year.
Facebook and Google strongly objected to the proposal. While Google ultimately decided to preemptively negotiate deals with major Australian publishers, Facebook blocked all news content for its Australian users and all content from Australian news publishers for users worldwide on Wednesday.
“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” a blog post from Facebook announcing the block said. “With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”
Over the weekend, Frydenberg and the Australian government attempted to negotiate with Facebook.
During a news conference Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison joked that Facebook had “tentatively friended us again.”
The amendments to the media code include a one-month notice if the government plans to designate a platform as bound by this code.
—Eden Gillespie (@edengillespie) February 23, 2021
Also included are provisions for digital platforms to be notified of commercial designations, consideration over whether a particular digital platform has “made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry,” and the implementation of a two-month mediation period between the platform and media companies before entering into binding arbitration.
In a statement released Monday evening, Facebook said it was “satisfied” with the agreement it reached with the Australian government.
“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’s vice president of global news partnerships, Campbell Brown, said in a statement. “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.”
Brown, however, said Facebook would maintain the right to review its agreements with Australia’s 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 a forced negotiation,” Brown said.