Facebook lifting Australian news ban after deal with government

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Facebook will allow links to news stories to be viewed and shared in Australia after last-minute negotiations with the government Monday.

The two sides reached an agreement that would give Facebook more time before being forced into a government-run arbitration process, the social media company said in a blog post late Monday.

“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,” Campbell Brown, the company’s head of news partnerships, said in a statement.

Facebook had moved to cut off the sharing of news articles last week in response to a law set to be passed soon.

The News Media Bargaining Code in the legislation would require platforms like Facebook to pay publishers for news content that appears on their sites.

It would also have allowed media companies to bargain with platforms over prices, a process that would end in government arbitration.

New amendments to the law set to be introduced Tuesday would insert a two-month period to give platforms and publishers more time to negotiate before being forced into arbitration and suggest that online companies that have made “a significant contribution” to the Australian news industry may be exempt temporarily from having to make payments.

Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer, and Paul Fletcher, the minister for communications, infrastructure, cities and the arts said in a statement announcing the amendments that Facebook intends to restore Australian news pages “in the coming days.”

“These amendments also add further impetus for parties to engage in commercial negotiations outside the Code – a central feature of the framework that the Government is putting in place to foster more sustainable public interest journalism in Australia,” they explained.

Frydenberg tweeted shortly after that Facebook has reached an agreement with Seven West Media, a major Australian news business.

The deal gives more time for Facebook to reach those kinds of deals.

Facebook had announced last week it would restrict content publishing from Australian publishers over Australia’s proposed law. Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the move “indefensible” over the weekend.

“The idea of shutting down the sorts of sites they did yesterday, as some sort of threat — well, I know how Australians react to that and I thought that was not a good move on their part,” he said Friday.

Google did not join Facebook in the standoff over the law after having already reached an arrangement with Australia’s Seven West Media as well as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Zack Budryk contributed.

Tags Australia Big tech Facebook Google News Social media

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