Facebook will walk back its block on Australian news sites, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher have said, after a backlash to its response to proposed media bargaining laws that would force major tech giants to pay news outlets for their content.
“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” a statement from the ministers said.
In the statement, Mr Frydenberg and Mr Fletcher said the government would make further amendments to the news media bargaining code.
Last week Facebook stopped Australian users from sharing or posting news links in response to the code.
A number of non-news pages were swept up in the ban, including community organisations and the Bureau of Meteorology.
Facebook said in a statement that it was “pleased” the company was able to reach an agreement with the government.
“[We] appreciate the constructive discussions we’ve had with Treasurer Frydenberg and Minister Fletcher over the past week,” it said.
“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 recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.
“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.”
The amendments to the code include a range of changes, including that final offer arbitration — something both Google and Facebook were strongly opposed to — is 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”.
Final offer arbitration would mean if a deal could not be reached, both the news publisher and the digital platform would present their proposed deals to an independent mediator, who would then pick one and that would become binding under law.
The Treasurer will also have to give advance notice to a platform if it is going to be “designated” or included under the code, and also has to take into account any deals the company has done.
Seven West Media, Nine, News Corp and The Guardian have all struck content deals with Google to show their content on its News Showcase platform.
Facebook wants to bring its Facebook News service to Australia, but has yet to sign any deals with local publishers.