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Article

Facebook refriends Australia after last-minute changes to media code

23 February 2021

Facebook has agreed with Seven West Media to pay for news content and has restarted negotiations with Nine Entertainment Co, after the social media giant agreed to reverse its ban on news on its Australian site.

The Morrison government agreed to last-minute changes to its proposed media bargaining code on Tuesday in order to bring Facebook back to the negotiating table with news companies. The amendments pave the way for Google and Facebook to avoid the code altogether if they can satisfy the government they have struck enough deals outside it.

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Facebook Australia managing director Will Easton said the amendments addressed the company’s core concerns.

“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,” he said.

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Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice-president of global news partnerships, said in a statement the changes allowed the company “to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers”. However, she indicated the company was prepared to reinstate a ban in the future.

“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 a forced negotiation,” she said.

The code, which is backed by Labor and will become law, sets out a framework for forcing Google and Facebook to broker commercial deals with media companies for the value they obtain from having news content on their platforms. Facebook and Google have both fiercely resisted the code, describing it as “unworkable” and threatening to curtail their services in Australia if it passed unamended.

Google threatened to cut off search in Australia in protest against the code, but later struck multimillion-dollar deals with major Australian publishers, including Nine Entertainment Co, which owns this masthead, for the use of their content.

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[Companies also mentioned in the article are Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment Co, Google, Nine, and Newscorp.]

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