Facebook strikes last-minute deal with Australia around news content

The agreement ends Facebook’s temporary ban on sharing news links on its platform in the country.

Facebook on Monday said it struck a deal with Australian lawmakers to pay local publishers for their news content, after the government finally agreed to change some of the terms within its new media code.

Why it matters: The agreement ends Facebook’s temporary ban on sharing news links on its platform in the country. Data showed that the link-sharing ban caused news traffic to plummet in the region.

  • It also ends Facebook’s ban on sharing links to Australian news websites globally on the platform.

Catch up quick: Facebook’s decision to stop link-sharing was made in response to a new law that would have forced Google and Facebook to pay Australian news publishers for content with terms set by a third party, if they weren’t able to come up with payout agreements with local publishers themselves.

  • Google struck last-minute payout deals with big Australian publishers last week so that it wouldn’t have to skirt the law and pull Google Search from the country. Facebook did not.
  • While the law was intended to benefit publishers, the days following Facebook’s link-sharing ban showed that if the tech giant refused to comply with the law and instead opted to leave the country, it would’ve been disastrous for local news companies that rely on Facebook for traffic.

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Data: Chartbeat; Chart: Axios Visuals

What they’re saying: “After further discussions with the Australian government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers,” said Campbell Brown, Facebook’s VP of News.

  • “We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days,” she said.

Be smart: Facebook took particular issue with a baseball-style arbitration clause in Australia’s new media code, which would see a government-appointed panel set the payout rate if the parties can’t reach a deal.

  • Sources told Axios that the tech giant was worried that involving third-party arbitrators could help publishers successfully make unreasonable demands.
  • Facebook on Monday suggested that the Australian government changed this part of the law to instead allow Facebook to strike deals with publishers it chooses on its own terms.

What’s next: Moving forward, Brown says that the Australian government has clarified that the tech giant “will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation.”

  • “It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally, and resist efforts by media conglomerates.”

Go deeper: News traffic in Australia drops after Facebook link-sharing ban

Sara Fischer

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