Facebook reverses news ban on Australian sites and told the Federal Government that it will restore Australian news pages “in the coming days”.
In a statement to the Federal government, six days after the tech giant blocked Australian news pages on its platform, Managing Director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, William Easton, said that the organisation was “pleased” to have reached an agreement with the government to a number of changes to the proposed News Media and Digital Bargaining Code.
“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,” Mr Easton wrote and added that as a result of these changes, they can now work to further their investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.
In a media release, the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the amendments to the code will provide “further clarity” to the proposed media law and encourage dialogue between publishers and major digital platforms.
Mr Frydenberg stated that he had engaged in “constructive” discussions over the code with founder Mark Zuckerberg and the latter had agreed that he intended to sign commercial deals with news publishers. The digital platform is in the process of bringing Facebook News service to Australia, but has not yet signed any deals with local publishers.
The amendments to the code include a range of changes, such as the final offer arbitration which would mean that if a deal could not be reached, both the news publisher and the digital platform would present their proposed deals to an independent mediator, who would then decide which one would become binding under law.
The Treasurer said it had also agreed to give the platform advance notice if it is going to be “designated” or included under the code, taking into account any deals the company has done.
Since last week Facebook blocked Australian news pages, and prevented Australian users from sharing or posting news links, in response to the proposed media bargaining laws that would force major digital platforms to pay news outlets for their content. A number of non-news pages were also swept up in the ban, including community organisations and the Bureau of Meteorology.