Platforms Featured ANZ

Facebook, Australia mend ties as amendments applied to Media Bargaining Code

Australia – Facebook has decided to restore news provision for Australian users on its platform after the country’s government announced its latest amendments to the news media bargaining code.

On 17 February, Facebook broke the announcement that it will be restricting the users in the country from sharing and viewing Australian and international news content on its platform in response to the nation’s proposed media bargaining law, which obliges technology platform giants that operate in Australia to pay local news publishers for the news content made available on their platforms.

Following the platform’s statement, the Morrison Government of Australia has decided to introduce further amendments to the law to ensure news media businesses are fairly remunerated, and to address the concerns of Facebook and other digital platforms such as Google.

The new law will now take into consideration a digital platform’s significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry before deciding to put it under the law, and this will be based on the commercial agreements it has reached with news media businesses.

In line with this, the changes to the law also state that a digital platform will be notified of the government’s intention to designate it under the law before any final decision, where confirmation will be no sooner than one month from the date of the flag. 

The refreshed law also states that non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered for reasons of commercial agreements resulting in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes in the course of usual business practices

Furthermore, within the new law, final offer arbitration will be the last resort with unsettled commercial deals requiring mediation, which implies that if a deal could not be reached, both parties would present their commercial deals to a fair mediator, picking one that would become binding under law.

The Australian government believes that these amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms. Also, these amendments can further add purpose for parties to engage in commercial negotiations outside the law, a central feature of the framework that aims to promote more sustainable public interest journalism in Australia.

Facebook said that they are pleased to have been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government and appreciate the constructive discussions they’ve had with Treasurer Frydenberg and Minister Fletcher. 

“We have consistently supported a framework that would encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers. 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 stated. 

The platform also said that within the agreement, the government has clarified that it will retain its ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so it won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation. 

As a result of the changes, aside from restoring access to news content, Facebook has now decided to resume further working on its investment in public interest journalism in the country. 

“It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in the news globally and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook,” said Facebook.

Platforms Featured ANZ

Facebook bans Australia from viewing, sharing both local, international news

Australia – In a statement Wednesday, Facebook has announced that it has decided to restrict publishers and users in Australia from sharing and viewing Australian and international news content on its platform. This is in response to the country’s proposed media bargaining law.

What this means is, aside from limited viewing, people and news organizations in Australia are now restricted from posting news links and sharing Australian and international news content on Facebook. Globally, posting and sharing news links from Australian publishers is also restricted.

The media bargaining law which was announced in December last year by Australia, requires both Google and Facebook to share a portion of their revenues with news publishers through a mandatory code of agreement.

Facebook said that the proposed law “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between the platform and publishers who use it to share news content. 

“It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia, ” wrote Managing Director of Facebook’s Australia and New Zealand William Easton in a blog post 

Facebook has chosen the latter, which he said the platform had done it with a “heavy heart.” 

The platform further shared that it has made clear to the Australian government for many months, that the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favor of the publisher. Last year, Facebook said it generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated A$407M.

Facebook News was ready to be launched in Australia with the platform having significantly increased its investments with local publishers, however, it resulted in a suspension, with Facebook saying it was only prepared to do it with the “right rules in place.” 

“We’ve long worked toward rules that would encourage innovation and collaboration between digital platforms and news organizations. Unfortunately, this legislation does not do that. Instead, it seeks to penalize Facebook for content it didn’t take or ask for,” Easton further wrote. 

In the announcement, Facebook gave an itemized list of the features of the restriction:

For Australian publishers:
• Restriction from sharing or posting any content on Facebook Pages
• Admins will still be able to access other features from their Facebook Page, including Page insights and Creator Studio
• Facebook will continue to provide access to all other standard Facebook services, including data tools and CrowdTangle

For international publishers:
• Publishers can continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts can’t be viewed or shared by Australian audiences

For our Australian community:
• Australians cannot view or share local or international news content on Facebook or content from local and international news Pages

For our international community:
• Viewing or sharing of Australian news content on Facebook or content from Australian News Pages is prohibited

Amid the restriction, Facebook reassured that the changes affecting news content will not halt its products and services in Australia, as it will continue to assist users to connect with friends and family, grow their businesses, and join groups to help support their local communities. Also, Facebook will remain committed to its third-party fact-checking program, Agence France-Presse, and will continue to invest and support the important work of the Australian Associated Press.

Platforms Featured ANZ

Australia’s new law to make Facebook, Google pay for news

Canberra, Australia – The Australian government has now announced that legislation is ongoing that mandates tech giants Facebook and Google to compensate local media companies for the content they produce online.

In a report by the Associated Press, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg stated that the so-called News Media Bargaining Code will pass through a parliamentary hearing before official voting by next year.

“This is a huge reform. This is a world first. And the world is watching what happens here in Australia. This is comprehensive legislation that has gone further than any comparable jurisdiction in the world,” Frydenberg stated.

The News Media Bargaining Code, according to an official press release by the Office of the Treasurer, aims to support and sustain public interest journalism in the country, with strategies including “enabling digital platforms to publish standard offers, which provides smaller news media businesses with an efficient pathway to finalizing agreements with digital platform.”

Under the new reform, Facebook and Google will need to compensate local media companies, including state-owned media groups Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS)-which were originally excluded from the initial law proposal.

Both Facebook and Google have released their statements in the past, opposing the new referendum. Facebook had stated that they will start blocking Australian users and publishers in publishing local and international news on their platform and on Instagram, while Google had clarified that they are not ‘stealing’ content from other people, but rather redirecting users to what they searched.