CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Facebook on Tuesday announced it would lift its ban on sharing information with Australians after reaching a deal with the Australian government on legislation that would force digital giants to pay for journalism.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook have confirmed they have agreed to amendments to proposed legislation to force the social network and Google to pay for the Australian news they present.
Facebook’s cooperation is a major victory in Australia’s efforts to charge the two internet gateways for the journalism they use. The company had blocked Australian users from accessing and sharing information last week after the House of Representatives passed the bill on Wednesday night.
The amended version of the bill would give digital platforms one month’s notice before they are officially designated under the code. This would give those involved more time to negotiate agreements before they are forced to enter into the binding arbitration agreements required by the proposed law.
Initially, the Facebook news blockade cut off access – at least temporarily – to government pandemic, public health and emergency services, sparking public outrage.
A statement released Tuesday by Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president for press partnerships, said the deal allows the company to choose which publishers it will support, including small local publishers.
“We are restoring the news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. Going forward, the government has made it clear that we will retain the ability to decide whether the news appears on Facebook so that we are not automatically forced into forced negotiation, ”Brown said.
Frydenberg described the agreed changes as “clarifications” of the government’s intention. He said his negotiations with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg were “difficult”.
“There is no doubt that Australia has been a proxy battle for the world,” Frydenberg said.
“Facebook and Google have made no secret of the fact that they know the eyes of the world are on Australia and that is why they have sought to get a code here that is workable,” he added. , referring to the draft negotiating code in the news media.
The code was designed to curb the dominance of Facebook and Google in their negotiations with Australian news providers by requiring a safety net for negotiations in the form of an arbitration panel. The digital giants would not be able to abuse their overwhelming negotiating positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news companies for their journalism. In the event of a deadlock, the committee would take a binding decision on a winning bid.
Belinda Barnet, a senior lecturer at Swinburne University on media, said the proposed amendments ensure Facebook has time to make deals before the arbitration group decides on the price of the news.
Peter Lewis, director of the Center for Responsible Technology at the Australian Institute, a think tank, said in a statement that “the amendments preserve the integrity of the media code.”
Google had also threatened to remove its search functions from Australia because it said the bill was unworkable. But that threat has faded.
Google has signed content licensing agreements with Australia’s largest media companies through its News Showcase model.
The platform claims to have made deals with more than 50 Australian titles through Showcase and more than 500 publishers worldwide using the model launched in October.
Facebook said it will now negotiate deals with Australian publishers under its own model, Facebook News.
“We are pleased that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our primary concerns about authorizing trade deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers versus the value that we’re getting out of it, ”William, regional manager of Facebook Says Easton.
“As a result of these changes, we can now work to continue our investments in public service journalism and restore the news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days,” Easton added.
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