Facebook ends Australian news ban

 

The world's largest social network finally removed its ban on news and other information in Australia in the wee hours of Friday morning, restoring hundreds of Facebook pages belonging to media outlets, blogs, magazines, and small businesses swept up in the drama.

The sites unlocked for 17 million Australian Facebook users at 1am AEDT not only included local news pages, such as The Daily Telegraph, ABC, and The Guardian, but international publications such as The Wall Street Journal and CNN.

Facebook's unprecedented ban on news, which lasted for eight days and captured worldwide attention, was lifted one day after the Australian Government passed its news media bargaining code with amendments discussed in talks between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and the tech giant's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg during a phone ball with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg. Picture: PMO via NCA NewsWire
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg during a phone ball with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg. Picture: PMO via NCA NewsWire

Yesterday, Mr Frydenberg confirmed the social media giant would end than ban during an interview on 2GB radio.

Asked when news will be back on the site, Mr Frydenberg replied: "I understand you'll see some changes from tomorrow, that's what Facebook has told us."

He said the company's decision came after "extensive discussions" with the government.

"We've reached a solution and a way forward," Mr Frydenberg said.

Facebook removed news content - and the content on many government, non-profit and other informational pages - in response to the federal media bargaining code, which aims to force internet giants like Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for generating content that the sites host.
Earlier, Facebook was still defending its unprecedented act that even it says "errs on the side of over-enforcement".

Facebook's global affairs vice-president, former British politician Nick Clegg, doubled down on its ban against sharing or seeing news on the social network in Australia, arguing the tech giant had little choice but to remove all news content from its platform to evade Australia's news code.

In a blog post published late on Wednesday - just hours after changes to Australia's news media bargaining code were passed by the Senate - Mr Clegg said Facebook's decision to remove all news content was necessary even though he said it would "have felt abrupt and dramatic to many".


Mr Clegg said executives felt they had only two responses to laws drafted by Australia's competition watchdog: agree to "open-ended subsidies … or remove news from our platform in Australia".

And, while not apologising for blocking access to much more than just news outlets, including charities, non-government agencies and mothers' groups, Mr Clegg said the decision was taken swiftly to avoid legal risks.

"It wasn't a decision taken lightly," he said.

"But when it came, we had to take action quickly because it was legally necessary to do so before the new law came into force, and so we erred on the side of over-enforcement.

"In doing so, some content was blocked inadvertently. Much of this was, thankfully, reversed quickly."

Mr Clegg said changes to Australia's news bargaining code discussed by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg meant "fair negotiations" were now possible without "unpredictable arbitration".

Those changes passed the House of Representatives on Thursday.

Originally published as Facebook ban stays as media code passes Senate


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