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Facebook to restore news services in Australia

Social media giant Facebook on Tuesday said it will restore news services in Australia after it reached a revised agreement with the government on the proposed media bargaining laws, which aim to make technology companies pay for hosting news content.

The dispute on paying news organisations for sharing journalism content came to a head last week, when Facebook banned Australians from sharing news articles. Inadvertently, some government pages and announcements, including alerts on COVID-19, were blocked too, drawing severe backlash.

The Australian government’s landmark media bargaining laws, also being called ‘the code’, is yet to be passed in its Parliament.

Australian government Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has held detailed discussions with Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, on Tuesday said: “Facebook has re-friended Australia. Australian news will be restored to the Facebook platform, and Facebook has committed to entering into good-faith negotiations with Australian news media businesses and seeking to reach agreements to pay for content.”

Frydenberg, quoting Zuckerberg, said Facebook will sign individual commercial deals with news publishers and that these discussions “are pretty advanced with a number of (news) parties.”

Similar to Facebook, internet services heavyweight Google is also expected to follow the media bargaining code. Google and Facebook can avoid the code altogether, if they can satisfy the government that enough deals with news organisations have been struck outside it.

“It has been a difficult process, but these are really important issues. Facebook is now going to engage in good faith negotiations with the commercial players,” he said.

In a statement, Facebook said it was “pleased” the company was able to reach an agreement with the Australian government.

“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,” Facebook said.

“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.”