MELBOURNE: Facebook restored access to news for its Australian users after reaching an agreement with the government on a landmark law requiring it and other tech firms to pay for journalistic content.
The Facebook pages of Australian news outlets were able to update from early Friday morning for the first time in a week since the social media giant imposed a ban on news content in a dispute over the law.
Facebook and Google, the two companies targeted by the regulation, strongly objected to clauses requiring them to submit to mandatory arbitration over the amount they would have to pay local media to show Australian news on their platforms and search results.
To avoid being hit by the arbitration, Google negotiated multi-million dollar content licensing deals with a host of Australian companies, and notably the country’s two biggest news organisations: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Nine Entertainment.
Facebook, which relies less on news in its business model, responded on February 18 by blocking access to Australian news for all its users. The move also hit many non-media Facebook pages, including for governmental emergency services, health organisations and charities, prompting widespread outrage.
Facebook eventually followed Google in agreeing to negotiate paid arrangements with Australian media, leading the government to water down the arbitration requirements in the so-called News Media Bargaining Code.
In announcing the end of its news blackout, Facebook said it “looks forward to continuing to work with the industry to find the best ways to support news.” The firm also announced possible deals with three independent media companies Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media.
The agreements marked a new foray into content payment for Facebook and Google curating and indexing others’ content cost-free. Facebook and Google have each said they will invest around US$1 billion in news around the world over the next three years.
Google will pay for news content that appears on its “Showcase” product and Facebook is expected to pay providers who appear on its “News” feature, which is to be rolled out in Australia later this year.