Facebook will restore news for Australians in the coming days after the federal government agreed to make some amendments to its proposed media bargaining code.
Last week, the social media giant removed all news – including government and community pages and emergency services – from its platform. Facebook’s decision to do so was a response to legislation put forward by the government that would force major tech giants to pay news publishers for using their content. It was viewed internationally as a warning to other governments against enforcing similar legislation.
On Tuesday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Facebook had “re-friended” Australia.
Facebook’s managing director in Australia Will Easton said Facebook would restore Australian news content following negotiations with the government.
“We’re pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government and appreciate the constructive discussions we’ve had with treasurer Frydenberg and minister Fletcher over the past week,” Easton said in a statement.
“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.”
The amendments mean that the government will consider the agreements Facebook has made with media companies to pay them for news content, before deciding to apply the bargaining code. The government will give one month’s notice before reaching this decision. There will also be a two-month mediation period to allow Facebook and news publishers to broker deals before they are made to enter arbitration but this will remain a last resort.
Facebook retains the right to take Australian news content down again in the future if it doesn’t get its way.
In practice, the watering down of the media bargaining code will largely benefit Facebook, and major news publishers who are most likely to snap up commercial deals. The bargaining code will provide companies like News Corp and Nine, who already saturate the Australian media landscape, with some additional cash flow.
Being able to share news content on Facebook again will be welcomed by most small and independent publishers and regional newspapers, but they are also the least likely players to get commercial deals with Facebook.
On Tuesday, Seven West Media, which owns the Seven TV Network and the West Australian, announced it has signed a letter of intent to provide news content to Facebook. It’s the first major Australian publisher to announce a deal. Seven West Media will provide more details of the deal following the executive of the agreement.