Facebook to restore news in Australia

The social-media network said the Australian government has agreed to make last-minute changes to the terms of the media bargaining code, which could pass as soon as Wednesday

Feb 23, 2021 10:52:00 AM | Article | Jessica Goodfellow

Facebook is set to restore news content for Australian users after reaching an agreement with the government over its proposed media bargaining code.

The social media network on Thursday (February 18) restricted publishers and users from sharing or viewing Australian and international news in protest of the new law, which was set to come into force after being approved by legislators.  

The new law, which has been in the works for nearly a year, requires Facebook and Google to reach commercial deals with Australian publishers or face compulsory arbitration.

Facebook has repeatedly called the code "discriminatory", with Australia and New Zealand managing director William Easton last week saying the platform was prepared to reach deals with local publishers but "only...with the right rules in place."

After holding several talks with the Australian government over the weekend, including with treasurer Josh Frydenberg and communications minister Paul Fletcher, Facebook has now reached an agreement it is satisfied with.

In a statement released today (February 23), Easton said: "We’re pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government and appreciate the constructive discussions we’ve had with Treasurer Frydenberg and Minister Fletcher over the past week."

"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," Easton said.

Campbell Brown, Facebook's VP of global news partnerships, added that the agreement "will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers".

"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," Brown commented.

As a result of the changes to the code, Facebook pledged to restore news for Australians "in the coming days".

Frydenberg and Fletcher confirmed the amendments on Tuesday after securing the support of the Coalition party room.

"These amendments will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated," the ministers said in a joint statement.

The revised legislation could pass as soon as Wednesday.

(This article first appeared on CampaignAsia.com)