Facebook to backflip on its ban on Australian news

Josh-Frydenberg

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Source: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

Facebook has agreed to end its ban on Australian news appearing on its platform, after the federal government announced it would amend the news media bargaining code.

The social media network on Tuesday advised the federal government that it plans to restore all Australian news pages and allow the posting of news content in coming days.

Facebook’s decision to reverse the ban comes as the Morrison government announced it amendments to the news media bargaining code, which aims to make large tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, pay Australian news publishers for content available on their platforms.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said in a statement the amendments “will provide further clarity” to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the code is intended to operate.

Under the proposed 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 second amendment will see the government notify digital platforms if it intends to designate the platform under the code and the final decision would then have to be made at least one month later.

Non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial deals between news outlets and platforms resulted in different amounts of money paid.

The final amendment announced by the government will make arbitration a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached.

Facebook pulled all Australian news from its platform last Friday, in a move that effectively wiped news content from media pages and barred users from posting news and viewing local and international news.

At the onset of the ban, non-news pages were also blocked from sharing content, including small business, NGOs and official government pages.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Facebook vice president of Global News Partnerships Campbell Brown said the tech company and the government have “come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers”.

“Going forward, the government had 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,” he added.

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

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