Facebook Reverses News Ban on Australia

Daniel Y. Teng
By Daniel Y. Teng
February 23, 2021Australia
Facebook Reverses News Ban on Australia
A computer screen displaying the logo of social networking site Facebook reflected in a window before the Beijing skyline, China, on May 16, 2012. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Facebook has decided to reverse its sweeping ban on news content in Australia after the tech giant and the federal government agreed to amendments to the impending media payment law.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the Australian government have been engaged in eleventh-hour discussions since the ban came into place last Thursday.

By Tuesday Eastern Standard Time, a deal was finally brokered.

“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” according to a statement by Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher.

“These amendments will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the Code is intended to operate …” they said.

A message is seen on Facebook mobile
A message is seen on Facebook mobile in Melbourne, Australia on Feb. 18, 2021. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Some amendments include giving companies one month notice before they were designated as coming under the ambit of the News Media Bargaining Code and extending the amount of time for mediation between parties.

Last week, Facebook made good on a threat to pull news content from its platform in response to the Australian government’s News Media Bargaining Code.

The Code legislates a framework for news companies to enter negotiations with Google and Facebook for payment of content.

Despite initial resistance, threats, and public lobbying, Google eventually came to the table and spent the last week signing off deals with several media outlets.

However, Facebook decided to execute its “nuclear option,” surprising government ministers with its news ban.

The ban removed all news-related content from its platform in Australia and prevented users from sharing it.

NTD Photo
Facebook has restricted Queensland Health’s Facebook page in its move to restrict sharing Australian news on its platform. (The Epoch Times)

The Facebook pages of mainstream media outlets were also shut down, including the ABC, The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, and The Epoch Times.

Campbell Brown, Facebook’s VP of Global News Partnerships, said the tech giant was pleased to have reached an agreement with the Australian government.

“We have consistently supported a framework that would encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers,” Brown said in a blog.

“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,” he added.

The ban caused major disruption across Australia with the accounts of several non-media Facebook pages, including non-profit organisations, unions, businesses, emergency services, the weather bureau, and government departments.

Traffic to Australian news sites also took a tumble, with an estimated 16 percent drop in web visitation once the ban set in.

Australia has been at the forefront of the world push on how to regulate Big Tech better. Currently, Canada has announced that it is now considering similar legislation to Australia, while Microsoft has encouraged European and U.S. regulators to adopt the law.

From The Epoch Times