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Facebook lifts ban on Australian news after gov't amends law

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks remotely during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing in 2020. Pool Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks remotely during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing in 2020. Pool Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Facebook late Monday said it has reached an agreement with the Australian government and will restore the ability for Australian publishers and citizens to share and view news content on the social media platform.

The deal was announced a week after Facebook blocked news and government content from its Australian platform in protest to a new law set to pass that would require tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, to negotiate deals with publishers to show links to their content.

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Campbell Brown, vice president of Global News Partnerships at Facebook, said in a statement that the agreement was reached over the past week of discussions between the U.S. company and Australian politicians Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Paul Fletcher, the minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts.

"We are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of 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," Brown said.

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Facebook announced the deal as Frydenberg unveiled amendments to the law that include the addition of a two-month negotiation period to allow tech companies and publishers time to ink deals before entering final-offer arbitration.

Other amendments include considering whether the code should apply to media platforms based on their contributions to the Australian news industry through previous commercial agreements. The company will also be given a month's notice before being designated under the code.

"The amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms," Frydenberg said in a statement. "These amendment also add further impetus for parties to engage in commercial negotiations outside the Code -- a central feature of the framework that the government is putting in place to foster more sustainable public interest journalism in Australia."

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Frydenberg said Facebook has informed the government that it will restore Australian news pages to its platform "in the coming days."

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