The spat between Facebook and Australia appears to be mended for the time being, with the two reaching an agreement.
Facebook started blocking Australian news from its platform last Wednesday, in response to proposed legislation that would force tech companies to pay for news they link to or promote. The legislation has been the source of division in the tech industry, with both Google and Facebook fighting it and Microsoft embracing it.
While Google initially threatened to pull its search out of Australia, it ultimately began negotiating with news publishers to pay them for their content. Facebook, on the other hand, embraced the nuclear option, blocking Australian news altogether. The response was swift and severe, with the company widely condemned and one UK lawmaker calling it a bully.
Facebook has now made nice with the Australian government negotiating terms that will see it allow Australian news once more.
“Well, Facebook has refriended Australia, and Australian news will be restored to the Facebook platform,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters Tuesday. “Facebook has committed to entering into good-faith negotiations with Australian news media businesses in seeking to reach agreements to pay for content.”
The agreement included additional amendments, making forced negotiations less of a threat. The amendments include:
- a decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses;
- a digital platform will be notified of the Government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification;
- non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and
- final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.
Needless to say, both sides are claiming victory. Long-term, however, it’s hard to argue that Australia’s efforts won’t be used as a template by other countries to force Big Tech to reach more equitable agreements with publishers.