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News Is Back On Facebook In Australia

We're back.

Australian news sites are back on Facebook on Friday after the social media giant agreed to reverse its block on local content.

Facebook pages for news publishers, including HuffPost Australia, stopped the sharing of news content across the entire globe last week in response to the Morrison government’s Media Bargaining Code that proposed tech giants Facebook and Google pay news outlets for surfacing and profiting of their content.

Facebook said the code, as it stood last week, “fundamentally misunderstands” the relationship between itself and publishers, arguing that news outlets voluntarily post their article links on the platform.

Caught up in the row were emergency services sites the Bureau of Meteorology, state health departments, and the national domestic violence and sexual assault helpline 1800Respect. Facebook apologised for banning vital organisations and reversed the ban on those pages last week.

Smaller Indigenous and community media organisations were also censored.

Australia’s parliament passed a law on Thursday to make Google and Facebook pay media companies for content on their platforms in reforms that countries such as Britain and Canada are looking to replicate.

It’s a landmark measure that could boost traditional media companies publications that have struggled for a piece of the digital advertising pie.

After robust negotiations in which Facebook blocked all news content in the 13th-largest economy, the vote makes Australia the first nation where a government arbitrator can set the price tech giants pay domestic media if private talks fail.

The new law sets the stage for a dispute-handling process largely untested in corporate Australia, should negotiations between Big Tech and media companies fail. Its progress will be closely watched globally.

Both sides claimed victory after Australia offered Facebook some concessions, including government discretion to release the tech giants from arbitration if they can prove a “significant contribution” to the domestic news industry.

The revised code also allows the tech companies a longer period to cut media deals before the state intervenes. It will be reviewed within a year of taking effect, a joint statement said, but gave no start date.

For months Facebook and Google threatened to pull core services from Australia if the law took effect. But in the days before the vote, and before Facebook blocked news, Google struck some deals with publisher News Corp.

Several large Australian media companies, including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and the Australian Broadcasting Corp have said they were in talks with Facebook.

Facebook will now surface news in Australia after parliament passed a law on Thursday to make the tech giant pay publishers.
Facebook will now surface news in Australia after parliament passed a law on Thursday to make the tech giant pay publishers.

With additional files from Reuters.

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