CANBERRA, Australia (AP) Facebook announced on Tuesday it would lift a ban on Australians viewing and sharing news on its platform after it reached an agreement with the government on proposed legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism.
The social media company sparked alarm with its surprise decision week to block news on its platform across Australia after the House of Representatives passed the bill. Initially, the outage also cut short access to government pandemic, public health and emergency services, at least temporarily, fueling outrage.
Facebook collaboration is a major victory in Australia’s efforts to make two major online entries, Google and Facebook, pay for the journalism they use in a showdown that governments and tech companies around the world have seen from close. Google had also threatened to remove its search functions from Australia because of the proposed law, but that threat has faded.
There is no doubt that Australia has been a proxy battle for the world, said cashier Josh Frydenberg.
Facebook and Google have made no secret of the fact that they know that the eyes of the world are on Australia and that is why they have sought to obtain a code here that is applicable, he added, referring to the draft law, the News Code of Business.
In fact, this week, Microsoft and four European publishing groups announced that they would work together to promote Australian-style rules for paying for news from tech platforms.
The legislation was created to curb the great power of Facebook and Google negotiations in their negotiations with Australian news providers. Digital giants will not be able to abuse their positions by making pay-per-view offers or licensing it to news businesses for their journalism. Instead, in the event of a blockage, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning bid.
Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that both parties agreed on changes to the proposed legislation. The changes would give digital platforms a month’s notice before they are formally defined under the code. This would give those who were involved more time for mediation agreements before being forced to enter into binding arbitration agreements.
A statement Tuesday from Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of news partnerships, added that the deal allows the company to select publishers it will support, including small and local ones.
They were resetting Facebook news in Australia in the following days. “Going forward, the government has clarified that we will retain the ability to decide if the news appears on Facebook so that we do not automatically undergo forced negotiation,” Brown said.
Frydenberg described the agreed changes as clarifications of the government’s intentions. He said his negotiations with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg were difficult.
A lobbying group for European publishers that is among those joining Microsoft said the agreement shows that such legislation is possible and not just in Australia.
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The latest twist proves that regulation works, ”said Angela Mills Wade, executive director of the European Council of Publishers. “Regulators around the world will ensure that they can continue to draw inspiration from the Australian Government ‘s determination to withstand unacceptable threats from powerful trading porters.
Facebook said it would now negotiate deals with Australian publishers.
We are pleased that the Australian Government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing trade agreements that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers compared to the value we receive from them, said the regional director of Facebook William Easton.
As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public-interest journalism and restore Facebook news to Australians in the coming days, Easton added.
Google, meanwhile, has been listing Australia’s largest media companies on content licensing agreements through the News Showcase. The platform says it has deals with more than 50 Australian titles and more than 500 publishers globally using the model, which was launched in October.
Peter Lewis, director of the Australian Center for Institutes of Responsible Technology, a research institution, said in a statement that the changes keep the integrity of the media code intact.
However, others took a more skeptical stance. Jeff Jarvis, a journalism expert from New York City University, said media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who owns most of Australia’s leading newspapers through News Corp. .
Jarvis said Murdochs media empire was the driving force of Australian legislation, which he noted included a requirement for media companies to earn at least A $ 150,000 ($ 119,000) in qualifying revenue.
So a startup that has no revenue has no real help, Jarvis said, adding that even if Facebook and Google open payment talks with small companies, obviously a smaller player has less influence than a more player larger than a News Corp.
Associated Press writer Kelvin Chan contributed to this report from London.
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