Facebook to Restore Australia News Pages as Deal Reached on Media Law

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Facebook said Tuesday it will lift a contentious ban on Australian news pages “in the coming days”, after the government agreed to amend a world-first media law fiercely opposed by the tech giant.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook indicated a compromise had been reached on key aspects of a law that would force digital giants to pay news companies for content.

“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,” said Will Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia.

Facebook Inc is back at the negotiating table, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday after the tech giant this week blocked news on its site in the country.

Facebook’s abrupt decision to stop Australians from sharing news on the site and strip the pages of domestic and foreign news outlets also erased several state government and emergency department accounts, causing widespread anger.

The company has “tentatively friended us again,” Morrison told a news conference in Sydney. “What I’m pleased about it that Facebook is back at the table again.”

Facebook has publicly indicated no change in its opposition to a proposed law requiring social media platforms to pay for links to news content. Morrison was not asked about that.

Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Friday he had spoken with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and further talks were expected over the weekend. It was not clear whether those talks have happened.

Simon Milner, Facebook’s Asia-Pacific policy director of policy for the Asia-Pacific region, was quoted on Saturday as telling the Sydney Morning Herald the company had three main objections to the legislation.

Facebook objects to being barred from discriminating between different news outlets that ask for money, to arbitration models that allow an independent body to select one payment over another, and to the obligation to enter commercial negotiations with Australian media companies, Milner said.



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