Facebook to Lift Block on Australian News Content after Agreement with Canberra

The Australian government says Facebook has agreed to allow Australians to resume viewing or sharing news content after the two sides reached an agreement over a proposal to make the digital giants pay domestic news outlets for their content. The two sides announced the deal Tuesday just hours before the Australian Senate was set to begin debate on a set of amendments to a bill that was passed just last week by the lower House of Representatives.  The amendments include a two-month mediation period that would give social media giants and news publishers extra time to broker agreements before they are forced to abide by the government’s provisions.   Treasurer Josh Frydenberg issued a joint statement with Communications Minister Paul Fletcher saying Facebook will restore Australian news outlets on the social media platform “in the coming days.”An illustration image shows a phone screen with the “Facebook” logo and Australian newspapers in Canberra, Australia, Feb. 18, 2021.Facebook regional director William Easton issued a statement saying the company was “satisfied” the Australian government agreed to the changes and guarantees “that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.” Facebook blocked Australian news content last week despite ongoing negotiations with Canberra. The websites of several public agencies and emergency services were also blocked on Facebook, including pages that include up-to-date information on COVID-19 outbreaks, brushfires and other natural disasters. Australian media companies have seen their advertising revenue increasingly siphoned off by big tech firms like Google and Facebook in recent years. Google had also threatened to block news content if the law were passed, even warning last August that Australians’ personal information could be “at risk” if digital giants had to pay for news content. But the company has already signed a number of separate agreements with such Australian media giants as the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp, Nine Entertainment and Seven West Media. 

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