Facebook Reverses News Ban on Its Australian Platform


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546 points


The tech giant must make deals with news outlets to avoid sanctions.

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Facebook has reversed its controversial decision to block any links containing news from its Australian customers. The reversal means Facebook users located in Australia will now have full access to all news on the social media platform, with full service resumed “in the coming days.”

However, the issue of forcing social media companies to pay for every news item posted to the platform isn’t going away any time soon, and this case involving Facebook and Google is the tip of an oncoming iceberg.

Why Has Facebook Reversed Its Australian News Ban?

The announcement that Facebook is reversing its news ban for its Australian users comes after days of negotiations between the social media company, the Australian government, and other media outlets.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters that Facebook had “re-friended Australia,” while his office provided more details regarding the announcement with an official blog post.

Last week, Facebook blocked all news media outlets from its platform in Australia in response to an incoming law that would force tech giants to negotiate with media outlets for fair use of their content.

Facebook’s response also took down several healthcare and emergency service pages and affected government pages and the ability of regular Australian Facebook users to update or post news.

The changes to the bill effectively allow Facebook to negotiate directly with Australian news networks to provide content deals. The Australian government will not apply the code if Facebook and other tech giants can negotiate enough deals to pay news networks, though how many networks are required isn’t clear.

Related: Local News App Beats Facebook in Australian App Store

Furthermore, the “final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification.” In short, Facebook has one month to get its house in order, or else the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code will be enforced.

Of course, in that instance, Facebook will simply flip the switch again and shut down Australian news on its platform.

Facebook Making Deals with Australian News Outlets

Following the announcement on Tuesday, Facebook announced a partnership deal with Seven West Media, one of Australia’s largest news outlets. Details of the deal were not made public, but it signifies how quickly Facebook must move to avoid code enforcement.

Deals are also underway with Australia’s largest locally-owned news outlet, Nine Entertainment, while the BBC understands talks are ongoing with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

So, where does Facebook stand after this debacle?

As you might expect, the idea of licensing news from specific outlets has its proponents and detractors.

It’s alleged that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation was heavily involved in the lobbying for this mandatory code, seeking to protect its newspaper business in the country and across the globe. If this bill had passed without issue, News Corp could have used it to push the idea in other countries where it has a presence.

On the other hand, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the modern internet, says charging and licensing individual news outlets is impractical, infeasible, and would ultimately make the internet unworkable for many users.

But perhaps the biggest takeaway comes from Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology, Peter Lewis.

This whole episode should give Australians pause to reflect on our over-reliance on Facebook to connect with each other.

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