Speed Reads

Facebook v. Australia

Facebook, Australia reach agreement to end week-long news blockade

Facebook said Tuesday it will end its week-long blockade of Australian news sites after reaching agreement with the Australian government on a pending law that forces Facebook and Google to pay news providers for their content. "Facebook has refriended Australia, and Australian news will be restored to the Facebook platform," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters on Tuesday.

Frydenberg said after tough negotiations with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, the Australian government will introduce four amendments to its News Media Bargaining Code legislation, giving Facebook and Google, among other things, more time to reach agreement with news providers before a government arbitration panel steps in with a binding deal. The new code would prevent Facebook, Google, and eventually other Big Tech companies from using their digital dominance to strong-arm news businesses into take-it-or-leave-it compensation deals.

"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," Facebook's head of global news partnerships, Campbell Brown, said in a statement. Frydenberg said Australia's fight with Facebook had been a "proxy battle for the world," as other countries consider similar measures. Nobody is sure how Australia's new law, once enacted, will work in practice. Australian lawmakers will begin debating the amendments on Tuesday.

Google, after first threatening to pull its search engine from Australia, changed course and started reaching deals with Australian news publishers. Its deal with News Corp, which has a dominant presence in Australia, is global in scope. Facebook's news ban initially also blocked Australian government sites with COVID-19, public health, and emergency services, sparking widespread outrage in the country.