Facebook will allow users in Australia to read and share news on the social media platform again following negotiations with the Australian government, according to Australia’s treasurer Josh Frydenberg and representatives from Facebook. Who blinked first? That’s a matter of interpretation, it would seem.
Facebook previously blocked all news sharing on the site for the past five days in retaliation for a proposed Australian law that would force large tech companies to share profits with news publishers, something called the Media Code. Google also planned to block search in Australia over the proposed Code, something that seems increasingly unlikely as the tech giants continue to negotiate down under.
Both sides in the battle have claimed victory, with Facebook saying that it will no longer be subject to a forced negotiation with publishers over paying for news, and politicians saying they’re satisfied with the “advanced negotiations” Facebook has conducted with Australian news creators like Seven West Media and the Seven TV network.
“Well, Facebook has refriended Australia, and Australian news will be restored to the Facebook platform,” Frydenberg told reporters in the capitol city of Canberra on Tuesday. “Facebook has committed to entering into good-faith negotiations with Australian news media business in seeking to reach agreements to pay for content.”
“I have no doubt that so many other countries are looking at what is happening here in Australia because of this innovative Code the [Prime Minister Scott] Morrison government is now pursuing, so Facebook and Google have not hidden the fact that they know that the eyes of the world are on Australia. And that is why they have sought to get a Code here that is workable,” said Frydenberg.
But Facebook is positioning this as a win for the social media giant, naturally, making it sound like the government blinked first.
“After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers,” Campbell Brown, vice president of Global News Partnerships at Facebook, told Gizmodo over email.
“We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. 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 a forced negotiation,” Brown continued.
“It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally, and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook,” said Brown.
Facebook did not elaborate on how quickly news pages will be restored but a test by Gizmodo revealed that users still can’t post news. Anyone who tries to post a link to a news site receives a message that reads, “In response to Australian government legislation, Facebook restricts the posting of news links and all posts from news Pages in Australia. Globally, the posting and sharing of news links from Australian publications is restricted.”
Frydenberg’s office published a blog post on Tuesday going into more detail about what changes they’ve floated to the Media Code that will be more palatable to Facebook’s interests:
- a decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses;
- a digital platform will be notified of the Government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision - noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification;
- non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and
- final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.
Not a bad job, from the Australian government’s point of view. They asked for the moon, and got half of it. The question becomes whether this deal actually helps publishers in Australia or if the money only goes to guys like Rupert Murdoch and his media empire.
Murdoch was the main driver behind the Media Code, so we can probably bet who will actually benefit from this new scheme. But good for you guys. Way to win one for the little guy. Or, the slightly smaller guy, as it were.