Facebook announced Tuesday that it would lift a ban on Australians viewing and sharing news on its platform after it struck a deal with the government on proposed legislation that would make digital giants pay for journalism.
The social media company caused alarm with its sudden decision last week to block news on its platform across Australia after the House of Representatives passed the draft law. Initially, the blackout also cut access — at least temporarily — to government pandemic, public health, and emergency services, fueling outrage.
In a news conference, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told him that the company intends to strike commercial deals with Australian media organizations to pay for content. It did that later Tuesday, when Australian television and newspaper company Seven West Media Ltd. said it agreed to provide news to Facebook, though it didn’t immediately provide any details of the deal.
“There’s no doubt that Australia has been a proxy battle for the world,” Mr. Frydenberg said Tuesday. “Facebook and Google have not hidden the fact that they know that the eyes of the world are on Australia.”
Facebook said Tuesday that it is satisfied that the changes to the legislation address its main concerns, including that previous versions didn’t fully recognize the value Facebook provides to news publishers by sending traffic to their websites. Campbell Brown, the vice president of global news partnerships at Facebook, said the Australian government clarified that Facebook would retain the ability to decide whether news appears on its platform.
“It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world,” she said. “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.”
Sarah Hanson-Young, a senator from the Australian Greens party, which isn’t part of the government, said Tuesday’s changes to the legislation are more a clarification of how the new regulations would work, rather than an overhaul. “I don’t see them as huge concessions,” said Ms. Hanson-Young, whose party supports the new regulations in principle.