Facebook Backs Down in Fight Down Under

Social media giant strikes deal with Aussie government
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 23, 2021 12:02 AM CST
Facebook Will Lift Australian News Ban
This March 29, 2018, file photo shows the Facebook logo on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Facebook said on Tuesday it will lift its ban on Australians sharing news after it struck a deal with Australia's government on legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism, the AP reports. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that they have agreed on amendments to proposed legislation to require the social network and Google to pay for Australian news that they feature. Facebook's cooperation is a major victory in Australian efforts to make the two gateways to the Internet pay for the journalism that they use. Facebook blocked Australian users from accessing and sharing news last week after the House of Representatives passed the draft law late Wednesday. The Senate will debate amended legislation on Tuesday.

Initially, the Facebook news blockade cut access—at least temporarily—to government pandemic, public health, and emergency services, sparking public outrage. Frydenberg described the agreed upon amendments as “clarifications” of the government's intent. He said his negotiations with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg were “difficult.” “There is no doubt that Australia has been a proxy battle for the world,” Frydenberg said. Google also had threatened to remove its search functions from Australia because it said the proposed law was unworkable. But that threat has faded. Google has been signing up Australia's largest media companies in content licensing deals through its News Showcase model. Facebook said it will now negotiate deals with Australian publishers under its own model, Facebook News. (Much more here.)

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