Mon, 19 Apr 2021

  • Facebook backed down from its news blackout in Australia after the government agreed to amend legislation forcing the tech giant and Google to pay local publishers for content.
  • The social-media platform switched off news sharing in Australia last week in opposition to the proposed law.

  • The government said on Tuesday it would take into account commercial deals Google and Facebook reach with news companies before deciding whether they are subject to the law.

Facebook backed down from its news blackout in Australia after the government agreed to amend world-first legislation forcing the tech giant and Google to pay local publishers for content.

The social-media platform switched off news sharing in Australia last week in opposition to the proposed law, and Mark Zuckerberg and government officials have been locked in talks to find a compromise.

Among key concessions, the government said on Tuesday it would take into account commercial deals Google and Facebook reach with news companies before deciding whether they are subject to the law, and would also give them one month's notice.

The platforms also won more time to strike deals with publishers before they're forced into final-offer arbitration as a last resort.

The legislation, which is expected to pass parliament this week, has made Australia a testing ground for digital-platform regulation as jurisdictions worldwide rein in the Silicon Valley juggernauts.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Tuesday that Facebook had now re-engaged with news publishers and was seeking to reach commercial deals. Hours after the agreement was unfurled, Australia's Seven West Media disclosed separately it had signed a letter of intent to provide content to Facebook, without elaborating on financial arrangements.

"There is no doubt that Australia has been a proxy battle for the world," Frydenberg said. "So many other countries are looking at what is happening here in Australia."

In blocking news sharing, Facebook switched off the main news source for almost one in five Australians. It also disabled - accidentally, the company said - a raft of government Facebook pages carrying public health advice on the coronavirus, warnings from the weather bureau and even the site of a children's hospital.

"It seems very sensible of Facebook to retreat as this could have potentially been very damaging to its brand," said Nicole Bridges, a lecturer in public relations at Western Sydney University.

"Facebook's action clearly demonstrates the value that it provides to the news sites and this will feature heavily in those 'good faith negotiations'," said Richard Windsor, a former Nomura telecom analyst and founder of independent researcher Radio Free Mobile.

Source: News24

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