Facebook to lift news ban for Australian users and publishers

Facebook will lift its news ban for Australian users and publishers, less than a week after making the shock decision.

The ban – made last week in response to a proposed new Media Bargaining law – meant Australian users could no longer view or share local articles, while international Facebook users were also restricted from seeing Australian news.

Lifting the ban means local news publications and sites – including news.com.au – will be back on Facebook, with content once again allowed to be shared in coming days.

“The government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a statement.

Facebook also confirmed the news, saying in a statement it was “pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government and appreciate the constructive discussions we’ve had with Treasurer (Josh) Frydenberg and (Communications) Minister (Paul) Fletcher over the past week”.

Frydenberg added: “The amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms.

“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.”

The amendments included taking “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”.

Facebook Australia and New Zealand’s managing director William Easton said: “We have consistently supported a framework that would encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers,” the social media giant 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 social media giant made the stunning decision last Thursday to ban news sites, after the Federal Government pushed forward with a plan to force platforms to pay for news content.

Facebook and Google both initially responded with fury, with Google threatening to pull its search engine from the country during an inquiry in January.

Frydenberg held “constructive” discussions with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg over the weekend, where he “reiterated the Morrison government’s commitment to implementing the code and seeing journalists rewarded for generating original content”.

The conversations followed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s scathing attack on the news ban last week, where, in a post on the platform, he slammed it for not only wiping the pages of media outlets, but government organisations too.

“Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Morrison said.

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