(Pocket-lint) – Facebook has backtracked on its ban on news content being shared in Australia. 

The move came about because of draft Australian legislation designed to force platforms like Facebook and Google to pay for news content – to “level the playing field”  for publishers who have seen profits slide. Several other countries have toyed with the idea of similar legislation, so it’s interesting to see what happens in the future. 

Google had also threatened to block its search engine from Australia, but it instead agreed deals with Australian media company’s Nine Entertainment, Seven West Media and, most notably, News Corporation owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Essentially, this boils down to an argument over whether Facebook or Google are merely enabling people to link to content elsewhere or if they are really profiting from effectively publishing the content themselves. 

In reality though, things aren’t quite that simple, of course, but linking to other content is regarded as a key principle of the web and would potentially have had wider implications. 

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg held talks with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and managing director of Facebook Australis William Easton over the last week, the result of which is that the ban will end “in the coming days”. The ban was only introduced last Thursday and the unseemly episode has certainly had a detrimental effect on Facebook’s reputation in Australia and beyond.

As part of the agreement and amendments to the legislation, Facebook will have to demonstrate a contribution to local journalism, but it’s clear that the Australian Government has had to compromise. 

Facebook subsequently issued the following statement from Campbell Brown, head of Global News Partnerships at Facebook: “After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers.

“We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. 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.

“It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook.”

Facebook claims it doesn’t really profit from news content, but looking at anybody’s newsfeed it is clear that the lack of sharing of news content makes Facebook less compelling. 

Apple chief Tim Cook recently criticised Facebook and other social networks, labelling them “purveyors of fake news and peddlers of division” in a recent speech. 

Writing by Dan Grabham.





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