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Facebook Reaches Temporary Deal with Australia to Allow News on Its Platform

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Last week, a war broke out between Facebook and Australia, after Facebook block all news links visible to the Australian public on its platform as well as blocking all Australian news to international Facebook users.

It was a preemptive strike launched by Facebook to show the Australian government what it would look like if a new Australian law requiring Facebook to pay mainstream media outlets for the privilege of displaying their news and links in its platform.

In retaliation, the Australian government came down hard on Facebook’s decision to block news feeds which also included to disappearing of  key information pages like health and emergency services.

Clearly, Facebook’s blanket move was a little overzealous which backfired badly in terms of public relations.

Tensions have abated somewhat this week as the war between the Australian government and Palo Alto seems to have reached a temporary ceasefire agreement.

Jamie Smyth and Hannah Murphy of the FT report…

Facebook has agreed to restore Australian news on its platform “in the coming days” following an agreement with the government on amendments to a proposed law that would force Big Tech to pay for news.

The world’s largest social media company said on Tuesday it was satisfied that “a number of changes and guarantees” it had agreed with Canberra addressed its concerns over the bill.

The proposed law is being debated in parliament and could become a model for other governments’ efforts to reframe the relationship between dominant tech platforms and the media.

Facebook had argued that the legislation “fundamentally misunderstood” its interaction with publishers and penalised the company “for content it didn’t take or ask for”. It abruptly blocked the sharing of news in the country altogether last week, causing a public backlash after access to critical emergency services and health pages was cut off.

“Facebook has refriended Australia, and Australian news will be restored to the Facebook platform,” said Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer. “Facebook has committed to entering into good faith negotiations with Australian news media businesses and seeking to reach agreements to pay for content.”

Canberra said the amendments to the proposed law would provide clarity for digital platforms and media businesses about how the code would operate. It features an arbitration system that would make binding decisions on the fees designated platforms would have to pay news providers if commercial negotiations failed.

The changes could give Facebook and Google, the companies most vulnerable to the code, more flexibility to escape the most stringent aspects of it.

For example, authorities would have to consider whether a company had made a significant contribution to the news industry by reaching commercial deals with media businesses.

The contentious final arbitration model contained in the code will be stipulated as a “last resort” when commercial deals cannot be reached. A two-month period of mediation must occur prior to arbitration, the government said.

Facebook retains the right to reimpose a ban on sharing news on its platform in Australia if it is unable to reach acceptable deals with news media companies and is made subject to the code by Canberra.

(…) John Kettle, a partner at McCullough Robertson, an Australian law firm, said the agreement appeared to be a face-saving compromise for the company. But he said the government had asserted its authority and Facebook would now have to strike deals with news providers in a similar manner to Google…

Continue this story at the FT

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