Australian News Ban Reversed: Zuckerberg Offered Media Code Amendments!

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Facebook has pulled back on its decision to thrust Australian users into a news blackout.

Today, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced that the social media behemoth will restore Australian news pages after the Government offered Facebook amendments to the proposed media law.

Australia and Zuckerberg were locked in an intense week-long standoff against each other after the Australian government introduced the legislation and challenged both Facebook and the Alphabet-owned Google’s increasing dominance in the news content space.

At the end of it, on one hand, wherein Google conceded by agreeing to strike a multi-year deal with Australian news publishers. Facebook, on the other hand, went on to block all news content along with several state government and emergency department accounts for users in Australia.

Later followed a global outrage against the Facebook decision – an event that attracted the eyeballs of several other countries such as Canada who also pledged to create legislation of their own by taking cues from Australia.

Soon after, Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg re-initiated talks over the weekend and now a concession deal has reportedly been struck. 

Amended Australian Media Legislation

As part of the new deal, Australia will be offering four amendments which include- 

  • A change to Australia’s mandatory arbitration – a mechanism which was proposed to be implemented when tech giants couldn’t agree on a fair pay deal with publishers over displaying news content.
  • A 2- month period of mediation for news publishers and platforms to reach a private deal before a government-appointed arbitrator intervenes and takes matter into his/her hands.
  • Advance notice to a platform if they are going to be included under the code, and
  • The inclusion of a new rule which takes into consideration an internet company’s contribution to the ‘sustainability of the Australian news industry’ based on their pre-existing deals.

Facebook, in a statement regarding the same, mentioned that they are satisfied the Australian government has agreed to the changes and recognise the value of their platform provides to publishers relative to the value received vice versa.

Until Monday, Australia said that it wasn’t open to making any changes to the legislation. However, today Frydenberg, in a statement, said that these amendments will provide further ‘clarity’ to both digital platforms and news media businesses alike about the manner in which the code will operation.

Thus, in turn, it will strengthen the framework for ensuring media businesses are treated fairly and given their fair share of remuneration by tech platforms.

A Google spokesman declined to comment on this matter as of now. But, a spokesperson from a major Australian publisher and broadcaster – Nine Entertainment Co., said that they welcome the government’s compromise which has now led to Facebook getting back to the negotiation room with Australian media companies.

All in all, with the renewed agreement, Facebook very well proved to the Australian Government that their threats weren’t ‘empty’ as previously assumed. And, that a compromise needed to be factored into the legislation in order to appease both parties. We will keep you updated on all future developments. Until then, stay tuned.


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