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.