Arts & Entertainment

Facebook lifts ban on news pages in Australia

Sydney, Australia, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- Facebook on Friday lifted the ban it had imposed last week on the publication of news on its platform in Australia.

Facebook’s decision came a day after the approval by the Australian government of a law that requires technology companies to pay media for the content they publish on their platforms.

Since early Friday, some 13 million Facebook users in Australia can once again access or share news pages of public broadcasters ABC and SBS, private channels 9 and 7, as well as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, among others.

During the ban, which lasted about 8 days, news sites showed no posts on their Facebook pages while any attempt to share links to news resulted in a pop-up window explaining that they could not be posted in response to the news media code.

Facebook complained about a series of articles of the proposed bill, which led the Australian government to introduce new amendments to it on Tuesday.

The amendments to the news media code ahead of its approval by the parliament gave the social media giant and Google more room for negotiation with media.

Both the government and Facebook also announced the lifting of the ban, imposed on the morning of Feb. 18, on Tuesday.

In a statement, Facebook said, “The Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.”

“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days,” it added.

The measure, which is a pioneer in introducing binding arbitration as a last resort to fix an amount to be paid to the media, comes in response to recommendations made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in a report in December 2019 on the impact that digital search engines, social media platforms, and other digital content aggregation platforms have on competition in media and advertising services markets.

In its report, the ACCC had said that digital platforms earned as much as 51 percent of the public spending in the sector after doubling their share in the last five years at the cost of local print media, whose share dropped from 33 to 12 percent in the same duration.

Concentration of media ownership in Australia is among the highest in the world with Rupert Murdoch’s company News Corp as one of the largest media conglomerates in the country.

Google and Facebook have already signed separate agreements with the larger media outlets this month although some unions and experts fear that smaller and independent news outlets will be left out. EFE-EPA

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