Facebook to End Australia News Ban After Government Amends Media Law

The Australian government has signalled its intent to alter portions of the proposed media code after a standoff with social media.

Facebook has announced that it will restore news content to its users in Australia after a standoff with the country’s government last week.

“Facebook has re-friended Australia,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reports in Canberra on Tuesday, saying that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had told him that the ban would be lifted “in the coming days”.

Last Thursday, Facebook blocked Australian news sites from posting on the platform, and Australian users were prevented from viewing or sharing content from news outlets of any nationality. Also caught in the ban were various pages run by charitable organisations and government health agencies, disrupting coordination one week ahead of the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Facebook claimed that it had been forced to block news in Australia in response to legislation currently being debated in the Senate after passing the lower house last week. The law is intended to create a “fairer” negotiation process between tech giants and news companies and is being observed internationally as a litmus test for further regulation of tech and social media.

Now, Facebook says it has negotiated a change to the proposed media code.

“Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to forced negotiation,” said Campbell Brown, Facebook’s Vice President of Global News Partnerships, in a statement online.

The Australian government will offer four amendments to the media code, including a change to the proposed mandatory arbitration mechanism to be used when tech companies cannot reach a fair payment deal with publishers for displaying news content.

The media code has also been challenged by Google, which threatened to shut down its search engine in Australia if it was instated.

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