The social media company had previously limited this option, in response to a bill requiring Facebook and Google to pay for news from Australian media companies. The Australian government has now agreed to amend the scheme. “Facebook is friends with Australia again, and Australian news will be restored to the Facebook platform,” Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg said.
“We are pleased that the government has agreed to some changes and guarantees that address our concerns,” Facebook said in a statement. The company has long tried to change the country’s minds about the bill. It stated that this shows no understanding at all “of the relationship between our platform and publishers using it to share news”.
Fall in visitor numbers
The government sent the bill to parliament last week. Subsequently, Facebook pages of government services, charities and other organizations would have been blackened. Facebook posts in which people shared Australian news also disappeared. Due to the restriction, Australian news sites saw their traffic numbers drop by about 13 percent.
The proposal states that the tech companies must agree on a fee with media companies. The law would ensure a more sustainable media sector, the government says.
Among other things, a sensitive point in the media law is being worked on: the regulation for mandatory arbitration. If Facebook and a media company are unable to agree on a fee, an arbitration committee will have to take the plunge.
The legislation now states, among other things, that arbitration is “a last resort”, reports Australian broadcaster ABC. The arbitration is only for when you really fail to close a deal. There will also be a mediation period of two months before the arbitration committee may intervene. This gives the parties more time to reach a mutual agreement.
Google has already made deals with several major Australian media companies on compensation through the new News Showcase product. With that part, editors can decide for themselves which articles they want to offer for free via Google News. For example, media companies could recruit more subscribers for digital subscriptions.
MEPs also think the time is right to charge Google and Facebook for links to news articles. They want to include this proposal in the stricter rules that the EU wants to impose on tech companies.