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Australia Facebook lifts ban on Aussie news sites

22:18  25 february  2021
22:18  25 february  2021 Source:   9news.com.au

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Facebook has lifted its ban on Australian news sites after an eight-day blackout in a sensational standoff with the Morrison government.

As of 1am AEDT this morning, Australia's 13 million Facebook users were finally able to view local news on their feeds again after the social media giant reached an agreement with the Federal Government over its new media code.

When that code became law yesterday, Australia "helped lead the way" for how governments around the world deal with online behemoth.

"It's fair to say Google and Facebook didn't want this code to come into existence, but today it has and as a result Australian news media businesses will get paid for content and journalism will be sustained in this country," Mr Frydenberg told 2GB.

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  Facebook's news ban 'wrong, unnecessary and heavy-handed' Facebook's actions against Australian news will damage its reputation, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says. He said Facebook's ban has shown the immense power of "digital giants"."Facebook was wrong. Facebook's actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed," Mr Frydenberg said in Canberra today."Their decision to block Australians' access to government sites - be they about support through the pandemic, mental health, emergency services, the Bureau of Meteorology - were completely unrelated to the media code which is yet to pass through the Senate.

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Josh Frydenberg, Mark Zuckerberg are posing for a picture: Josh Frydenberg (left) and Mark Zuckerberg. © Nine Josh Frydenberg (left) and Mark Zuckerberg.

Why is Australian news returning to Facebook?

Mr Frydenberg confirmed on Thursday that Australian news would return to Facebook on Friday.

The social media giant had earlier pledged to restore Australian news pages "in the coming days" following amendments earlier in the week to the News Media and Digital Bargaining Code after lengthy negotiations with the treasurer.

"You'll see some changes from tomorrow (Friday) and that's what Facebook have told us," Mr Frydenberg told Jim Wilson.

"Obviously that was a major engineering feat for them to wipe the Facebook platform of Australian news media content.

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"I think there was understandable outrage across the broader community as to what Facebook did.

"But since that time there's been extensive discussions with the company and we've reached a solution and a way forward.


What does it mean for users as Facebook lifts news ban?

From Friday, Australian Facebook users should be able to read and share news from Australian organisations on the social network as they previously did.

Since Thursday last week, there had been a blanket ban on Australian news content being shared on Facebook. Users were met with a "no posts yet" message and blank feeds on news pages.

9News understands the Facebook pages captured in the blackout will be repopulated with their original content from before the snap ban.

graphical user interface, application: 9News Facebook page during the blackout. © Nine 9News Facebook page during the blackout.

Why did Facebook ban Australian news?

The dramatic move last week was Facebook pulling the trigger on its threat over the government's proposed new media bargaining code, which will compel companies like Facebook and Google to pay Australian publishers for their original news content.

Pacific media warns Facebook ban on Australian news could have serious effects in the region

  Pacific media warns Facebook ban on Australian news could have serious effects in the region Facebook's decision to block Australian news sites could help misinformation flourish in Pacific Island nations, where the platform is most popularly used to share and read news online. Amanda Watson from the Australian National University (ANU) — who is an expert in digital technology in the Pacific — said Facebook had an outsized presence in the region. "Many people [in the Pacific] would understand Facebook as being the internet. They wouldn't necessarily know how to search or move outside Facebook if they wanted to find information," she said.

Mr Frydenberg said the legislation was prompted by an ACCC review that found how Facebook and Google dominated the $9 billion-a-year online advertising market in Australia.

"For every $100 that is spent (on advertising), $81 goes to Google and Facebook," he told 2GB yesterday.

"The recommendation from the ACCC was those digital giants start paying Australian news outlets that generate original content.

"Over the past three years we have in extensive negotiations formulating this code, there's been a lot of back and forth."

READ MORE: Australian media code becomes law

The social giant argued that being forced to pay for news content was not in the spirit of the platform, and only comprised around four per cent of its content.

Google had previously come to certain agreements with media organisations.

Facebook, however, followed through on its threat, a decision its VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said "wasn't taken lightly".

"We had to take action quickly because it was legally necessary to do so before the new law came into force, and so we erred on the side of over-enforcement," Mr Clegg wrote.

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But the decision sparked outrage.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said it was important social media giants working in Australia complied with "the law of the land".

"The intention of the news media bargaining code is that where the digital platforms are using content, paid for and generated by Australian news media businesses, it costs money to employ journalists and to have editorial policies to fact check, if that content is being used by the digital platforms, they should pay for it," he said.

"The Australian Government has been very clear on that principle."

The shock ban caught many inadvertent pages in its wake, such as Fire and Rescue NSW, the Bureau of Meteorology, and domestic violence helplines.

READ MORE: Facebook exec apologises for pages caught up in Aussie news ban


In an open letter, Facebook Australia and New Zealand's managing director William Easton claimed the law "misunderstands" how Facebook works.

"The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content," Mr Easton wrote.

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.

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