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SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook pledged to invest at least $1 billion to support journalism over the next three years as the social media giant defended its handling of a dispute with Australia over payments to media organizations.
Nick Clegg, head of global affairs, said in a statement that the company is willing to support news media while reiterating its concerns over mandated payments.
“Facebook is more than willing to partner with news publishers,” Clegg said after Facebook restored news links as part of a compromise with Australian officials. “We absolutely recognize quality journalism is at the heart of how open societies function — informing and empowering citizens and holding the powerful to account.”
Clegg defended the US social media giant in a blog post titled “The Real Story of What Happened With News on Facebook in Australia.” The social media platform came under fire after it blanked out the pages of media outlets for Australian users and blocked them from sharing any news content, rather than submit to the proposed legislation.
Clegg contended in his post that at the heart of the controversy is a misunderstanding about the relationship between Facebook and news publishers. News groups share their stories at the social network, or make them available for Facebook users to share with features such as buttons designed into websites, he noted.
Facebook drove some 5.1 such “free referrals” to Australian news publishers last year, worth an estimated 407 million Australian dollars, according to Clegg.
“The assertions — repeated widely in recent days — that Facebook steals or takes original journalism for its own benefit always were and remain false,” Clegg said. “We neither take nor ask for the content for which we were being asked to pay a potentially exorbitant price.”
Clegg said that to comply with the law as originally proposed in Australia, “Facebook would have been forced to pay potentially unlimited amounts of money to multi-national media conglomerates under an arbitration system that deliberately misdescribes the relationship between publishers and Facebook.”
He maintained that in blacking out all news in the country, “we erred on the side of over-enforcement” and acknowledged that “some content was blocked inadvertently” before being restored.