Facebook, Australia Forge Agreement Following Aussie News Blackout on Platform

February 24th, 2021 12:33 PM

Facebook has come to an agreement with the Australian government in order to bring back Australian news to its platform.

In retaliation to a proposed law in Australia that would require tech giants like Facebook and Google to pay for news content on their platforms, Facebook blocked all local and global news sites from Australia. Facebook’s Australian news blackout ended after five days when the two sides came to an agreement. The new deal will result in Facebook striking “commercial deals with Australian media organizations to pay for content,” said Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, according to reporting from The Wall Street Journal. Facebook has reportedly made a deal with at least one Australian television and newspaper company already.

“We’re pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government,” Facebook said in a Feb. 22 blog post. “As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.”

Facebook added that it was “satisfied” the Australian government agreed to changes and guarantees that addressed the platform’s “core concerns” with the proposed Australian law. Facebook stated that its core concern was that earlier versions of the law did not adequately recognize the immense value the platform provides to Australian news publishers by sending tons of traffic to their sites.

Facebook and Australia’s agreement won’t stop the platform from blocking news, however. Vice President of Global News Partnerships at Facebook Campbell Brown noted that despite the changes made to the legislation, Facebook would still retain control over whether news appears on its platform, or not, the Journal reported.

Sarah Hanson-Young, a senator from the Australian Greens party said that the changes to the law work as more of a clarifier on how the new regulations would operate, rather than a complete remodeling of the proposed actions.

Facebook holds immense power in other countries over what it has allowed on its platform, the same way it does in America. Frydenberg remarked that the ban had a “huge community impact,” according to the BBC, with approximately 17 million Australians visiting the social media site every month.

Facebook initially fought the proposed law, arguing, “it doesn't reflect how the internet works.” Facebook’s local managing director William Easton said Australia’s proposed law sought “to penalise Facebook for content it didn't take or ask for,” according to the BBC.

“There’s no doubt that Australia has been a proxy battle for the world,” Frydenberg said Tuesday, according to the Journal. “Facebook and Google have not hidden the fact that they know that the eyes of the world are on Australia.”

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