Facebook reverses Australian news ban following amendments to media code
Facebook has walked back the uncompromising and abrupt total ban it had imposed on sharing Australian news sites. The bold move had blocked Facebook's Australian users from viewing and sharing news. Australian Communication Minister Paul Fletcher and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg issued a statement that Facebook will be restoring Australian news pages following the country-wide backlash against its ban.
Notably, Facebook has also issued a statement where it cited "constructive discussions" with Fletcher and Frydenberg, which apparently led to the Australian government agreeing to "a number of changes and guarantees" addressing the company's "core concerns". Prima facie, it seems like they have managed to work out a compromise where Facebook agrees to pay for news content, while ensuring the revenue-sharing deals aren't one-sided.
"After further discussions, 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."
Frydenberg deemed the discussions with Facebook a "difficult process," but he revealed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to sign commercial deals with Australian news publications after "good faith negotiations" with the concerned parties. Meanwhile, Australian media outlets such as Seven West Media, Nine, News Corp and The Guardian have already struck content deals with Google for its News Showcase platform.
A key change to the media code involves the final offer arbitration. It is now considered "a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months". Both Google and Facebook had expressed concerns about this aspect. However, Facebook is yet to sign any deals with local media outlets.