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Breaking news – Facebook to lift press ban in Australia after reaching deal with government to pay media companies

Breaking news

Sydney – Facebook said on Tuesday it would raise a contentious ban on Australian news and paying local media companies for content, after a last-minute deal on pending landmark legislation. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced a face-saving compromise that will see Google and Facebook plunge tens of millions of dollars into the struggling local news industry.

In turn, America’s digital businesses will, for now, avoid being subjected to mandatory payments that could cost them significantly more and set what they see as an alarming global precedent.

Just hours after the compromise was unveiled, Facebook announced its first proposed deal with Australian media company Seven West and reportedly struck trade deals with other local news outlets.

The company is expected to use the content to launch a dedicated news product in Australia later this year.


Current state of technology and social media …

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“With these changes, we can now work to continue our investments in public service journalism and restore the news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days,” said Will Easton, CEO of Facebook Australia.

The social media company sparked global outrage last week by blocking information for its Australian users in protest against the bill and inadvertently blocking a series of out-of-date Facebook pages linked to everything from organizations to cancer charities to emergency response services.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison angrily accused Facebook of having made the decision to “detach” from Australia.

Breaking news – Facebook to lift press ban in Australia after reaching deal with government to pay media companies
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at the Shipping Box during Question Time in the House of Representatives in Parliament, June 11, 2020, in Canberra, Australia.

Sam Mooy / Getty


Google has already negotiated deals worth millions of dollars with local media companies, including the two largest: News Corp of Rupert Murdoch and Nine Entertainment.

Commentators have described the eleventh-hour amendments – which came as parliament appears ready to pass the law this week – as “a reasonable compromise”.

“Anyone can walk away saying we got what we wanted,” Rob Nicholls, business professor at the University of New South Wales, told AFP.

The two companies now have two more months to enter into other agreements that would avoid binding arbitration.

“This does not concern anyone precisely”

Tech companies had been fiercely opposed to the legislation from the start, fearing it would threaten their business models.

In particular, the companies opposed rules that made negotiations with media companies mandatory and gave an independent Australian arbitrator the right to impose a monetary settlement.

This process will now be avoided if companies are deemed to have made a “significant contribution” to the Australian information industry through unspecified “trade agreements”.

“We are now faced with the strange possibility that the mandatory news media code could be passed by Parliament and not apply specifically to anyone,” said Marcus Strom, Head of Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, a union. “It will just stay in the treasurer’s room [drawer] as a threat to digital businesses that misbehave. “

Google was also keen to avoid setting a precedent that platforms would have to pay anyone for links, which could render their flagship search engine unusable.

Facebook – which relies much less on news content – initially said being forced to pay for news just wasn’t worth it and shut down the content.

“There is no doubt that Australia has been a proxy battle for the world,” Frydenberg said.

Critics of the law say it punishes innovative companies and amounts to a seizure of money by struggling but politically connected mainstream media.

Lots of money, engine of change

Thousands of jobs in journalism and many news outlets have been lost in Australia alone over the past decade as the industry monitored the flow of advertising revenue to digital players.

For every $ 100 spent by Australian advertisers today, $ 49 goes to Google and $ 24 to Facebook, according to the country’s watchdog.

Tech insiders see the legislation being driven, in particular, by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which dominates the local media landscape and has close ties to Australia’s conservative government.

Breaking news – Facebook to lift press ban in Australia after reaching deal with government to pay media companies
Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corporation, looks on during a panel discussion at the company’s B20 CEO meeting on July 17, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.

Jason Reed / Pool / Getty


A new provision in the law gives Facebook and Google more discretion over who they deal with and how much money is involved.

“We have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose, including small local publishers,” said Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president for global information partnerships.

Global implications

Facebook and Google could still face the prospect of having to replicate deals with media around the world, as the European Union, Canada and other jurisdictions work to regulate the industry.

Since their emergence at the turn of the century, Google and Facebook have been largely unregulated and have grown into two of the world’s largest and most profitable companies.

But a series of scandals over disinformation, privacy breaches, data collection and their near-monopoly on online advertising have caught the attention of watchdogs.

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