Australian parliament passes watered down media reforms

Australian parliament passes watered down media reforms

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.

The legislation was watered down, however, at the last minute after a standoff between the government and Facebook culminated in the social media company blocking all news for Australian users, reports Reuters.

Nevertheless, Facebook's decision to block news sharing in the country caused outrage from local users, worldwide lawmakers, and media publishers.

Facebook said on Tuesday it will restore Australian news pages after negotiating changes with the government to a proposed law that forces tech giants to pay for media content displayed on their platforms. "We have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers", Brown said.

The landmark bill received the final tick of approval on Thursday when parliament's lower house agreed to the government's changes, which were made after negotiations with Facebook and Google.

Nick Clegg, Facebook's head of global affairs, on Thursday said the original draft of the law would have forced the firm to pay "potentially unlimited amounts of money to multinational media conglomerates under an arbitration system that deliberately misdescribes the relationship between publishers and Facebook".

Following talks with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, the government made some last-minute changes to the law before it was finalised which appeased the tech giant and convinced it to undo the ban.

He said the firm was already working with publishers in the United Kingdom to pay for content in its Facebook News product, which personalizes news for its readers' individual tastes.

Both Facebook and Google have each said they will invest around $1 billion each in news around the world over the next three years.

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In a joint statement today, Australian Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and Minster for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Peter Fletcher, said the Code represents a significant microeconomic reform.

Google, who threatened to leave Australia, in the end, capitulated, but it appears Facebook, who stuck to their guns longer, won out in the end.

"They basically forced Facebook and Google to work with that legislation", he said.

The company has since been signing up Australia's largest media companies in content-licensing deals through its News Showcase.

Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that the two sides agreed to amendments to the proposed legislation.

Front pages of Australian newspapers are displayed featuring stories about Facebook in Sydney. "So many other countries are looking at what is happening here in Australia".

Frydenberg said Australia had been a "proxy battle for the world" as other jurisdictions engage with tech companies over a range of issues around news and content.

"These partnerships continue Facebook's commitment to the Australian news community", the company said in a statement, pointing to grants handed to Australian newsrooms over the COVID-19 pandemic and increased funding for fact-checkers in the local market. Facebook's cooperation means that digital giants won't able to abuse their positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism.

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