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“Facebook has refriended Australia”: Will restore news on its platform

Australia agrees to amendments in proposed law. Facebook reverses news ban.

Facebook has agreed to restore Australian news on its platform following an agreement with the government on amendments to the media code that would’ve forced Big Tech to pay for news. 

After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers. We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days.

Campbell Brown, VP, Facebook Global News Partnerships

“It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world,” she added, “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.”

Josh Frydenberg (treasurer) and Paul Fletcher (communications minister) announced that a compromise had been reached at the 11th hour, while the legislation was being debated in the Senate.

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

“Importantly, the amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms.”

He informed that amendments to the code had been brokered during intensive negotiations with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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.

Campbell Brown, VP, Facebook Global News Partnerships

The government said under the changes:

  • A decision to designate a platform under the code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses.
  • A digital platform will be notified of the government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification.
  • Non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices.
  • Final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.

This will lead to the restoration of plans to pay publishers for content appearing in the Facebook News tab in Australia. Facebook will also now be free to negotiate deals directly with publishers, with forced arbitrations looking very unlikely.

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.

William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand

The social media giant indicated that they will restore news on Facebook for Australians very soon. This is good news for publishers, considering how traffic to news sites plummeted after the news blockade went into effect:

Australia’s biggest locally-owned media company, Nine Entertainment, welcomed the resolution. A spokesman said it looked forward to resuming talks with Facebook about commercial arrangements.

We are pleased the government has found a compromise on the digital code legislation to move Facebook back into the negotiations with Australian media organisations.

Nine Entertainment spokesman

Seven West Media, one of Australia’s largest media groups, said it had signed a letter of intent to agree to a deal within 60 days to provide news content to Facebook.

Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology, noted that on face value it seemed the integrity of the code remained. “This whole episode should give Australians pause to reflect on our over reliance on Facebook to connect with each other,” he added.

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