SAN FRANCISCO Facebook said Monday it would restore sharing and viewing of news links in Australia as it gained more time to negotiate a proposed law that would require it to pay for the news content displayed on its website. saj.
The social network had blocked news links in Australia last week as the new law was about to pass. The legislation includes a code of conduct that will allow media companies to shop individually or collectively on digital platforms over the value of their news content.
Facebook had strongly opposed the code, which would curb its power and increase its spending on content, as well as set a precedent for other governments to follow. The company had argued that the news would not apply to the hassle in Australia if the bill becomes law.
But on Monday, Facebook returned to the negotiating table after the Australian government granted some small concessions. Under some changes to the code, Facebook would have more time to terminate deals with publishers so that it would not be forced to make payments immediately. The changes also suggested that if digital platforms had contributed significantly to the Australian news industry, companies could have avoided the code altogether, at least for now.
In return, Facebook agreed to restore news links and articles to Australian users in the coming days, according to a statement from Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer, and Paul Fletcher, communications, infrastructure, cities and arts minister.
Campbell Brown, Facebook vice president of global news partnerships, said in a statement that the social network is bringing news back to Australia as the government has clarified that we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we do not automatically submit to a forced negotiation.
The changes offer a break for both Facebook and the Australian government, which have been in a stalemate over the proposed bill for months. These tensions came to a head last week when Facebook disrupted news sharing in the country, causing disruption and confusion for millions of Australians.
Links to news articles were blocked, along with Facebook pages for Australian government agencies, health departments and emergency services. Users were upset when a flood of fake or deceptive sites filled the information gap, spreading false theories about the dangers of 5G wireless technology and false claims about Covid-19 vaccines.
In just a few days, we saw the damage the news brought out can cause, said Sree Sreenivasan, a professor at the Stony Brook School of Communication and Journalism. Misinformation and misinformation, already a platform problem, rushed to fill the vacuum.
The dispute between Australia and Facebook dates back to when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the country’s main competition authority, began drafting a bill last year. Australian officials have said the main purpose of the bills was to create conditions for agreements between the platforms and publishers, which have been at odds for years over the value of journalism and whether each party should be paid by the other.
Google and Facebook, which are accustomed to not paying primarily for news content, both rejected the proposed legislation. In August, Facebook said it would do so block users and news organizations in Australia by sharing local and international news on her social network and Instagram if the bill would move forward. Last month, Google also threatened to make its search engine unavailable in Australia if the government passed legislation.
But in recent weeks, Google started great deals with media companies like Reuters, The Financial Times and Rupert Murdochs News Corp.
In contrast, Facebook was held firm against the proposed legislation. This is because the code contained terms such as final arbitration, which would give an independent arbitrator the power to set the price for news content if a publisher and digital platform could not agree on a payment.
Facebook has repeatedly argued that the law takes the value proposition back because it has said it’s the one who gives value to news publishers by sending traffic to media websites, which can then be monetized with ads.
But supporters of the law have said the final arbitration which is used for contract disputes between players and Major League Baseball in the United States provides the necessary leverage when one party is strong enough to avoid negotiations if it chooses.
The key is, and remains, the mandatory arbitration clause, said Johan Lidberg, a media professor at Monash University. This must be maintained; without it the code would be toothless.
The proposed law also opens up the potential for a long range of publishers to demand payment. Any news publisher with more than A $ 150,000 in annual revenue can apply to register as a party to the code, giving it the option of forcing a company like Facebook into a bargain.
The law would also give great discretion to the federal treasury. Mr. Frydenberg would have the power to determine which companies should negotiate under the provisions of the codes, also deciding which media companies were able to register. Facebook and Google have intended to avoid this definition.
With the new changes, Australian officials seem to have given Facebook more time to produce the kinds of deals Google has already made, while continuing to hold the final arbitrage hammer over the heads of businesses. Facebook remembers that he can still eliminate news from his platform to potentially avoid a negotiation.
In its statement, the government argued that the changes would strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in getting the right reward for using their content from digital platforms.
But if the government agrees not to make Facebook the subject of the code because it concludes enough deals with major media companies, smaller publishers may be left out.
For young publishers and freelance journalists who have become dependent on Facebook to spread their news, it will be a great relief that the wiretapping is back again, said Marcus Strom, president of the Australian Union of Journalists. But they will stand at the mercy of Facebook and Google, who are seeking to avoid mandatory regulation and will instead choose which media companies reach agreements with.
Mike Isaac reported from San Francisco and Damien Cave from Sydney, Australia.
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