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Facebook Restores News to Australian Users

Google and Facebook logos, words "media, news, media" and Australian flag are displayed in this illustration taken, Feb. 18, 2021.

Global media giant Facebook is restoring news content to its users in Australia after resolving a dispute with the government. Facebook has been in dispute over media regulation proposals.

Last week, Facebook blocked Australians from sharing and reading news stories on its platform in a dispute with the government in Canberra.

It has championed a new media bargaining code that would make Australia the first country to force big tech firms to pay for news content reposted on their platforms. But Facebook’s ban on news content in Australia is being reversed after days of negotiation.

Analysts say both sides have made concessions. The government has made changes to the legislation. Facebook and Google will be allowed to operate outside the new code if they can satisfy the government that they have struck suitable deals with Australian media companies.

“Australian news will be restored to the Facebook platform, and Facebook has committed to entering into good faith negotiations with Australian news media businesses in seeking to reach agreements to pay for content," said Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Belinda Barnett is a senior lecturer in media and communications at Swinburne University. She hopes the tech firms will act in good faith and negotiate fairly with Australian media companies, big and small.

“If we manage to get reasonable deals for all eligible outlets, including rural, regional publishers, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) and so forth, I think it will be a good thing," said Barnett. "Ideally, (I would) have liked to have seen them designate Google and Facebook under the codes, so that it is directly enforceable.”

Google has reached multi-million-dollar deals with several major Australian publishers and broadcasters.

The legislation has been passed by the lower house of the Australian parliament and is expected to receive final approval by the upper chamber, the Senate, this week.

The progress of Australia’s social media laws is reportedly being closely followed in other parts of the world, including Canada and the European Union.

Traditional media outlets in Australia have complained that as their advertising revenues have collapsed, social media platforms have benefited from their quality journalism without paying for it.

After days of division, Australia and Facebook are, for now at least, friends again.