Australia Facebook is set to restore Australian news pages
Facebook just restricted access to news in Australia. Here's what that means for you
Facebook has restricted access to news in Australia. The tech giant says news makes up less than 4 per cent of people's feeds, but you may notice a difference today. Let's unpack what the changes mean for you.The tech giant says news makes up less than four per cent of what people see in their feeds, but you'll likely notice a difference when logging into the social network today.
Facebook will restore Australian news pages this week after reaching a deal with the government over its world-first law regulating big tech.
The social media platform was condemned by politicians around the world after it blocked 25 million Australians from viewing and sharing news articles on Thursday.
The 'arrogant and disgraceful' move - which also banned charity, health authority and emergency service pages - came after Australia's ground-breaking news media bargaining code passed the lower house of Parliament on Wednesday night.
But following talks with Facebook bosses, the government has made some last-minute changes to the law which have appeased the tech giant and convinced it to undo the ban.
Facebook's news ban 'experiment' is almost over. Here's what we've learnt
Australian news sites have seen a drop in traffic because of the Facebook news ban, with links shared on the platform estimated to be down 80 per cent.With yesterday's news that the ban will soon come to an end, it's worth looking at the results of this vast "experiment" (performed without consent).
'We're pleased that we've been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government and appreciate the constructive discussions we've had,' said William Easton the Managing Director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand.
As soon as the announcement was made, Facebook bosses sent emails to media executives saying the company will restart negotiations over payment for news content after talks stalled.
Australia's new law aims to tackle the huge power imbalance between big tech and media companies by forcing selected digital platforms to pay for the news content they host and reveal some of their closely-guarded algorithms and data.
Facebook thinks it won the battle of the media bargaining code — but so does the government
The government got its bargaining code, news businesses will get their cheque, and Facebook gets a few key concessions. So who won and who lost the battle of the media bargaining code?The legislation passed the Senate on Tuesday night, meaning the government can now make Facebook and Google negotiate with news producers to pay for content that appears on search engines or social media.
Amendments announced on Tuesday include a requirement for the government to give a digital platform a month's notice before applying the code to that company.
Another clause states the Treasurer must also take into account deals already done when deciding which platforms to designate under the code.
This paves the way for Google to dodge the legislation after it hastily signed multi-million-dollar agreements with Australia's biggest media companies Seven, Nine and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp last week.
Facebook's statement on the deal
'We're pleased that we've been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government and appreciate the constructive discussions we've had with Treasurer Frydenberg and Minister Fletcher over the past week.
'We have consistently supported a framework that would encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers.
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Indigenous health and media groups fear the shutdown of community pages may have a "devastating" impact on regional communities during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Crucial sources of information have been lost as small media outlets, community noticeboards and health services been caught up in Facebook's sweeping shutdown of Australian news.Facebook has blocked the feeds of Australian news companies on its site and is preventing users from sharing Australian news content.
'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.
'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.'
By William Easton, Managing Director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand
Another amendment will make clear that final-offer arbitration will only be required after two months of good-faith negotiations between a platform and a news business.
This method of arbitration, which selects one side's position as the resolution, was one of Facebook and Google's key grievances because they said it incentivised news companies to make outlandish claims in the hope their position will be selected.
'These amendments will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated,' Mr Frydenberg said.
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'The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days.'
The bargaining code is expected to pass the Senate and become law this week with support from Labor and the Greens, who will seek some minor amendments.
What changes have been made to the news media bargaining code?
• A decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses;
• A digital platform will be notified of the Government's intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification;
• Non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and
Facebook news ban drops reader traffic to news stories by 13 per cent within Australia, Chartbeat data shows
Traffic to Australian news websites fell in the hours following Facebook's news ban and audiences overall have not shifted to new platforms, according to data from web analytics company Chartbeat. Facebook blocked Australians from accessing news content on its platform at around 5:30am AEDT yesterday in response to the Government's proposed new laws forcing tech companies to pay publishers for news content.
• Final offer arbitration is 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
Mr Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher drew up the law after a three-year inquiry by Australia's competition regulator, the ACCC, which found Google and Facebook have 'an imbalance in bargaining power' when dealing with news companies.
For every $100 spent on digital advertising, $53 goes to Google, $28 to Facebook and only $19 goes to others.
The world-first code states that if a negotiation breaks down then an independent umpire will step in and decide the fee based on a 'final offer' method, which chooses one side's position as the resolution.
Australia's battle with Big Tech is being keenly watched by governments across the world, not least in London, Washington DC and Brussels, where concerns have been raised over the 'advertising duopoly' of Google and Facebook.
The Code was intended to apply to Facebook NewsFeed and Google Search - but other services such as Instagram and YouTube can be added if a bargaining power imbalance arises.
The tech giants would face $10million fines if they don't follow the rules.
In addition to payment for content, the measures would also force transparency around the closely guarded algorithms that tech firms use to rank content.
Facebook to stop blocking media content in Australia
© Copyright 2021, The Obs End of the standoff between Facebook and Australia. The social network announced on Tuesday February 23 the lifting "in the coming days" of the blocking of news content in this country , the government having accepted to amend the law aiming to force the giants of the tech to pay the media for the recovery of their content.
The code will require Google and Facebook to give publishers 14 days notice of any algorithm changes that are likely to have a significant impact on their traffic.
Under a two-way value model, the payment for content would take into account the value that Google and Facebook provide to news organisations by driving traffic to their sites.
What is the bargaining code and why is it needed?
WHY IS IT NEEDED?
Google and Facebook derive a benefit from the ability to make Australian news content available to their users.
Australian news businesses have had to accept commercial deals with the platforms that are less favourable than they would otherwise agree to.
Intervention is needed to address this imbalance because of the public benefit of news and the importance of a strong independent media in a well-functioning democracy.
For every $100 spend on advertising, $53 goes to Google, $28 goes to Facebook and $19 goes to other media.
WHAT IS THE CODE?
The government wants good faith commercial deals to be struck outside the code.
But if the platforms and news organisations are unable or unwilling to reach an agreement 'final offer arbitration' will take place.
The arbiters will take into account the benefits traditional news media businesses get by having eyeballs on their product.
The digital platforms will also need to adhere to a series of minimum standards.
WHO IS INCLUDED?
* Facebook and Google.
* ABC, SBS and Australian commercial news media organisations.
Facebook's Oversight Board members reportedly earn 6-figure salaries and only work 'about 15 hours a week' .
Facebook pays Oversight Board members six-figure salarys, The New Yorker reported. The 20-member Oversight Board can overrule Facebook's decisions on content moderation. Content moderators for Facebook reportedly earn less than $US29,000 a year. Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories. Facebook reportedly pays lofty salaries to members of its 'Supreme Court' that can overrule Mark Zuckerberg.