Facebook Lifts Australia News Ban After Tweaks To Proposed Law

Jill Goldsmith
·2 min read

Facebook will restore news to its platform in Australia after the government agreed to modify proposed legislation that had kicked off a bitter battle over how publishers are compensated for use of their content by Internet giants.

On Tuesday, Australian lawmakers said the code would now 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.”

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And arbitration would now only be used as a “last resort” following a period of “good faith” mediation. Facebook said the revisions would let it retain greater control of news on its platform.

The dispute has been brewing for months and legislation that was set to be approved shortly would have required immediate binding arbitration if the two sides – publisher and platform — failed to reach a deal on compensation. It also required tech platforms to give publishers collective bargaining power and notice of any algorithm changes that would materially affect traffic.

William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand, said last week that the proposed law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content” and that “with a heavy heart, we are choosing” to suspend news from our service in Australia.

The law in Australian and similar movement in other countries is a response to the imbalance of power between social media giants, which offer news to their massive base of users, and news providers, which want to be fairly compensated. In a preemptive move last week, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. inked a global deal for news content with Google

Microsoft and a handful of European publishing groups will be working together on similar rules for tech platforms paying for news.

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