Facebook to restore news pages in Australia

A phone showing the Facebook logo on a spread of Australian newspapers

EPA

Facebook has announced it will restore news content to its users in Australia.

The social media giant has blocked news to Australians since last Thursday in response to a proposed law which would make it and Google pay news publishers for content.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said news pages would be restored on Facebook “in the coming days”.

Amendments would be made to the law, he added in a statement on Tuesday.

The government has said its legislation aims to set up a “fairer” negotiation process between the tech giants and news companies over the value of news content.

The legislation – seen as a possible test case for regulation globally – has been strongly opposed by Facebook and Google.

But Facebook said on Tuesday that it had been reassured by recent discussions with the government.

“Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to forced negotiation,” said Campbell Brown, vice president of news partnerships at Facebook.

“We have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers.”

Facebook has its own “showcase” product through which it pays media organisations a fee to display their stories on its platform.

However, Australia’s law would require payment for the sharing and posting of news links on Facebook.

The tech firm had argued this “fundamentally” misunderstood how it used news on its site.

Last Thursday, Australians woke up to find they could not access or share any news stories on their accounts.

The blanket ban also included more than 100 non-news sites including government health and emergency pages. Facebook later asserted that these had been “inadvertently impacted”.

The tech giant drew backlash for its news ban, a decision the government described as “arrogant” and “bullying”.

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