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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - MELBOURNE — Australia’s government announced on Tuesday that Facebook has agreed to lift its ban on Australians sharing news after a deal was struck on legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed in statements that they had reached agreement on amendments to proposed legislation that would make the social network and Google pay for news that they feature.
In a statement on Facebook's corporate site, Campbell Brown, vice-president of global news partnerships, said: ”After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers. We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days."
"Going forward, the government has 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. 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.”
Facebook blocked Australian users from accessing and sharing news after the House of Representatives passed the draft law late Wednesday last week. The Senate will debate amended legislation on Tuesday.
“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a statement.
When Facebook first made the decision on Feb. 17, Facebook argued that news made up less than 4% of the content that people see on the site, making the "business gain" to the social media giant "minimal."
By contrast, it argued, the site "generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated A$407 million."
Facebook claimed that the law "seeks to penalize Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for."
The announcement caps months of bitter dispute between the American tech firm and Canberra, which had been working on legislation that would force tech platforms to pay publishers for news content.
The initial version of the legislation would have allowed media outlets to bargain either individually or collectively with Facebook and Google (GOOGL) — and to enter binding arbitration if the parties couldn't reach an agreement.
On Tuesday, the Australian government said it would amend the code to include a provision that "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."
Arbitration, meanwhile, will now only be used as a "last resort" following a period of "good faith" mediation.
Google, meanwhile, had already been trying to get ahead of the new legislation by announcing partnerships with some of the country's largest media organizations, including Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (NWS) and Seven West Media. Facebook revealed its own deal with Seven on Tuesday.
Asked about Google's partnerships last week, Frydenberg alluded to the changes that were ultimately announced Tuesday. He said, "If commercial deals are in place, then it changes the equation." — Agencies
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