Facebook lifts blackout on Australian news after reaching government deal

News will return to Australian Facebook feeds in the coming days

FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed Australia's flag in this illustration photo taken February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Facebook announced on Tuesday it was lifting its blackout on Australian news publishers, after reaching a deal with the government.

“We are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns,” read a statement from Facebook Australia's managing director William Easton.

The company said Australian Facebook feeds would be restored "in the coming days".

The agreement resulted from a series of negotiations between Australia's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, communications minister Paul Fletcher and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

"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," said Campbell Brown, Facebook's vice president of global news partnerships.

Australia will offer four amendments, including to the mechanism for final offer arbitration, which a Facebook executive told local media was a sticking point for the company.

Digital platforms will now be notified of the Government’s intention to designate them under the law, prior to any final decision and with at least one month’s notice.

"These amendments will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the code is intended to operate," read a statement from Mr Frydenberg and Mr Fletcher

Last week, the social media giant implemented a sweeping ban of news content for Australian users, in response to a proposed law that would require Facebook and Google to pay news publishers for content.

In the extensive blackout, a number of Facebook pages that did not belong to news publishers were also impacted.

Posts from some government health departments and emergency services' Facebook Pages were removed, raising criticism about Facebook's broad application of the news ban.

The standoff between the Australian government and Facebook was being closely watched by countries like Canada and Britain, who are considering similar actions.

The law requiring Facebook and Google to pay media companies for news content was introduced as a means to increase regulation on tech giants, who dominate the news market and profit heavily off the work of news publishers.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison welcomed the agreement with Facebook to restore news on the platform. He said some media companies had already inked deals with Facebook to be paid for news content.

"All along our news media bargaining code has been about ensuring Australian journalists and news organisations are fairly compensated for the original content they produce," said Mr Morrison.

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